Po­lice: Bomb blasts probe points to Mus­lim south

The Myanmar Times - - World -

MOST of those be­hind a string of bomb­ings in Thai tourist towns are Mus­lims from the in­sur­gency-plagued south­ern prov­inces, the na­tion’s po­lice chief claimed yes­ter­day.

It was the first clear in­di­ca­tion that po­lice believe a group of south­ern Mus­lims played some sort of role in the at­tacks which killed four and wounded dozens, in­clud­ing Euro­pean vis­i­tors, this month.

Po­lice chief Chak­thip Chai­jinda told re­porters investigators believe a group of “more than 20 peo­ple” were be­hind the co­or­di­nated at­tacks.

“Most of them are from the area of the south­ern bor­der prov­inces po­lice op­er­a­tion cen­tre,” he said, ref­er­enc­ing a polic­ing area that en­com­passes the Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity south­ern­most re­gion.

Asked whether the sus­pects were Thai na­tion­als, he said, “They are not Bud­dhists.”

He added that investigators had re­cently searched an Is­lamic school where he be­lieved some of the sus­pects had stud­ied or grad­u­ated from.

More than 6500 peo­ple, mostly civil­ians, have been killed in 12 years of vi­o­lence be­tween the Bud­dhist­ma­jor­ity state and shad­owy eth­nic Malay Mus­lim rebels seek­ing greater au­ton­omy.

But the vi­o­lence has largely re­mained lo­cal and for­eign­ers are usu­ally in­su­lated from do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal clashes that have hit the cap­i­tal.

That changed on Au­gust 11-12 when co­or­di­nated bomb and ar­son at­tacks struck mul­ti­ple tourist re­sort towns in Thai­land’s south.

No one has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity but au­thor­i­ties quickly ruled out in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism, say­ing the per­pe­tra­tors were do­mes­tic.

An­a­lysts say the lead­er­ship fears any ad­mis­sion that south­ern in­sur­gents were be­hind the attack might harm tourism and raise ques­tions

over the mil­i­tary’s abil­ity to en­sure security.

How­ever in re­cent days the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion has in­creas­ingly pointed south­ward.

One ar­rest war­rant has so far been is­sued for a named sus­pect over the at­tacks, a Mus­lim man from the south­ern prov­ince of Narathi­wat.

Lo­cal me­dia have re­ported that the man, Ahama Lengha, has a his­tory of in­volve­ment with in­sur­gents.

Po­lice chief Chak­thip said that the group “might have been hired” by oth­ers to carry out the at­tacks.

He said he be­lieved the per­pe­tra­tors were pre­vi­ously un­known to po­lice, not veter­ans from within the Malay in­sur­gency who might be eas­ier to catch and iden­tify.

“They are al­most all new blood which makes the in­ves­ti­ga­tion harder, but we do have ev­i­dence,” he said.

Photo: AFP

Royal Thai po­lice chief Chak­thip Chai­jinda

(cen­tre) speaks to re­porters at Royal Thai Po­lice head­quar­ters in Bangkok yes­ter­day.

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