Authorities in Malaysia on Wednesday announced the arrests of eight suspects, including four foreigners whom they identified as Uyghurs, in connection with last month’s deadly bombing of a Hindu shrine in Bangkok.
The arrests took place within the past week at various locations in Kuala Lumpur and northeastern Kelantan state, which borders Thailand, Deputy Inspector General of Police Noor Rashid Ibrahim told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
Four of the suspects are Uyghurs and the other four are Malaysians suspected of helping smuggle the four foreigners into Malaysia from Thailand after the attack, Noor Rashid said.
"Police suspect that those four foreigners may have been involved in bombings in Bangkok, based on information submitted by Thailand police,” he told reporters.
“But it does not mean that they were involved in the incident. However, they will be detained for investigation, '' he added.
“So far, there is no evidence and no plea was recorded from them,” Noor Rashid noted.
"The four Uyghurs were believed to be waiting to be smuggled out from the country by the four local residents, who are members of a human trafficking syndicate in Malaysia, '' he said.
Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority within China, who mostly live in the restive western Xinjiang region. Uyghurs also are spread across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and many Uyghurs also live in Turkey.
The arrests bring to 11 the number of people taken into custody on Malaysian soil as part of an international probe into Thailand’s deadliest terrorist bombing, which killed 20 people – including five Malaysians – and injured another 120 at the Erawan Shrine on Aug. 17.
On Sept. 17, Malaysian officials announced the arrests of two Malaysians and a Pakistani national in connection with the investigation, taking them into custody under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act of 2012 (SOSMA).
So far, Thai authorities have arrested two suspects.
Not our man
Last month’s attack took place during the evening rush hour near the Rajaprasong intersection in central Bangkok. Moments before the bomb went off, a man in a yellow shirt was filmed on a security camera leaving a backpack at the shrine, which is popular with tourists.
Thai police believe this man is the bomber. They have identified another man as the alleged mastermind of the attack, naming him as Chinese passport holder Abu Dustar Abdulrahman, also known as “Izan.” Thai authorities earlier said that both men had fled the country and were at-large.
But in Bangkok on Wednesday, Thai National Police spokesman, Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri, said that the suspected bomber was not among those suspects whose arrests had been announced in Kuala Lumpur, according to the Associated Press.
"This is not our wanted person," AP quoted Prawut as saying.