16 dead in bomb-hit central Bangkok
BArich Taiwan -- At least 16 people were killed and many injured when a bomb exploded Monday outside a popular religious shrine in Bangkok, scattering body parts and debris across the city's commercial core.
The blast hit at around 6:30 p.m. when the streetside shrine was packed with worshippers and tourists — although it was not possible immediately to confirm if foreigners were among the casualties.
There were media reports later of a second device being defused in the area but no immediate official confirmation.
"The death toll is now 16," police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri told AFP, while an emergency medical center said more than 80 people were injured in the massive blast.
Glass was strewn across the street after the explosion outside the Erawan Shrine in the central Chidlom district, an AFP reporter witnessed.
Charred and shattered motorcycles littered the scene, along with hunks of concrete from the shrine, with pools of blood on the pavement and bodies covered by white sheets.
"It was a bomb, I think it was inside a motorcycle... it was very big, look at the bodies," one rescue volunteer, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Bomber Used TNT, Targeted Foreigners: Thai Defense Minister
While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, suspicion was likely to fall on the kingdom's rival political factions.
Thailand has been seared by a near-decade of political violence that has left the country deeply divided and seen repeated rounds of deadly street protests and bombings — but none on Monday's scale.
Many observers had predicted a fresh round of violence after the military seized power in a coup in May last year, toppling a civilian government led by Yingluck Shinawatra.
Thailand's defense minister said the bombers had targeted "foreigners" to try to damage the tourist industry, which is a rare bright spot in an otherwise gloomy economy.
"It was a TNT bomb ... the people who did it targeted foreigners and to damage tourism and the economy," said Prawit Wongsuwong, a former general who is believed to have been one of the key coup-makers.
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