Thai police hunt for suspect seen in video of Bangkok shrine bombing

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This handout photograph released by Thai police on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015 shows CCTV footage of a possible suspect in the bomb blast, seen close to the Erawan shrine in Bangkok on Aug. 17, 2015. (Photo: Thai police, AFP/Getty Images)

This handout photograph released by Thai police on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015 shows CCTV footage of a possible suspect in the bomb blast, seen close to the Erawan shrine in Bangkok on Aug. 17, 2015. (Photo: Thai police, AFP/Getty Images)

BANGKOK -- As investigators picked through the wreckage of the powerful bomb blast that brought death and destruction to a popular shrine in the Thai capital, mystery surrounded the question of who carried out the shocking attack.

Thai police said Tuesday they are hunting for a suspect seen in CCTV footage who they believe may be connected to the bombing, which ripped through the crowds gathered near the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok on Monday evening.

In one CCTV image released by police, the man is seen carrying a dark-colored backpack near the shrine. In another, he no longer has the backpack. He's wearing a yellow T-shirt and dark-framed glasses.

Royal Thai Police Commissioner Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung said authorities don't yet know the suspect's identity or whether he is a Thai citizen or a foreigner.

"We need more evidence before we can make any conclusions," he told a news conference, saying that police were studying more than 10 days' worth of CCTV footage from the area.

The shrine, situated at a bustling intersection near a large shopping mall, is a big draw for tourists. At least seven people from other Asian countries were reported to be among the dead. The site is popular among Buddhists, as well as Hindu and Sikh members of Thailand's Indian community.

The devastating blast struck around 7 p.m. Monday during a busy time in the area, sending a giant plume of smoke and flames into the air.

'So many bones were broken;

"It was like this huge gust of wind and debris flying through you," recalled Sanjeev Vyas, a DJ from Mumbai, India, who was in the middle of the fray. "And then I see bodies everywhere, there are cars on fire, there are bikes everywhere. People are screaming."

Marko Cunningham, a paramedic for Bangkok Free Ambulance who arrived at the site soon after the explosion went off, said the scene was"absolutely horrific."

"I've seen a lot, but I've never scenes injuries as vicious as these injuries," he told CNN, adding that "so many bones were broken."

Police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri said the attack had killed at least 22 people. About 120 others are reported to have been wounded.

There has so far been no claim of responsibility for the attack. Thai authorities haven't made any announcements about who they believe might be behind it.

Somyot, the police chief, said cryptically on state-run TV that authorities had been warned about possible attacks, but they didn't know where or when they might occur.

Adding to the jitters, a new explosion was heard Tuesday at a pier on the Chao Praya River that flows through Bangkok, police told CNN. No injuries have been reported, and the pier has been closed, said Thai police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri.

It was unclear whether the two blasts were connected in any way.

Scale of attack shocks observers

Analysts say it's unclear which group would want to carry out the shrine attack, which is likely to hurt Thailand's tourism industry, a key part of the economy.

The capital, which was convulsed by political unrest last year, has experienced small-scale bomb and grenade attacks in the past. Two devices exploded at an upscale shopping mall in the city in February but didn't cause any casualties.

But Monday's attack was of a different magnitude altogether.

"It is by far the most devastating attack that Bangkok has seen -- or Thailand has seen, for that matter -- as far as I can remember," said Joseph Liow, a senior fellow at the Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies.

"CITY BOMB HORROR," blared the headline of the Bangkok Post on Tuesday.

Puzzle over who might be behind bombing

Observers say the attack doesn't fit with the campaign of violence mounted by Islamic insurgents in the far south of Thailand, near the border with Malaysia.

"Their complaints are very local, and they have tended to attack military and security targets," said CNN global affairs analyst Bobby Ghosh. "They have not really committed a terrorist attack of this nature against civilians, much less tourists. This does not seem to bear their fingerprints."

Experts say the shrine attack could be linked to the political instability that has plagued Thailand in recent years.

The military seized power in a coup in May 2014, ousting the democratically elected government that had been beset by long-running protests in Bangkok.

"There are political groups that are opposed to military rule, but they're democrats and this is not their style either," Ghosh said. "They don't go around bombing innocent civilians. And hurting Thailand's economy, which this will do, is the last thing that they would want."

Questions over explosive device

Cunningham, the paramedic who witnessed the aftermath of the attack Monday, said the bomb was "obviously designed to cause maximum damage and death" and was "really unlike the bombs that the Thailand political groups use."

Thai state media cited Somyot, the police chief, as saying the device that exploded was a pipe bomb wrapped in white cloth.

But CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer expressed skepticism.

"With that much damage, that many deaths, it's very unusual," he said. "It would be a very sophisticated pipe bomb -- they don't usually kill that many people."

Authorities were still identifying the attack's victims Tuesday.

Five Thais, four Chinese people, two Malaysians and a Singaporean are among the dead, said Maj. Gen. Witoon Nitiwarangkul, the surgeon general at Bangkok's Police General Hospital.

Medical officials had earlier reported that a Filipino was killed in the attack, but the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said it was still verifying that claim, according to the state-run Philippines News Agency.

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