Asia

Key Bangkok Erawan shrine bomb suspect 'fled to Turkey'

Photo handed out by Thai police 13 September 2015 shows a Bangkok bombing suspect identified by police as Abudusataer Abudureheman Image copyright EPA
Image caption Thai police released this photo of Abudusataer Abudureheman

A key suspect in August's deadly Bangkok shrine bombing has fled to Turkey, Thai police say.

They believe Abudusataer Abudureheman, also known as Ishan, organised the bombing, which killed 20 people.

The 27-year-old from China's Xinjiang province is thought to have travelled to Istanbul at the end of August.

But Turkey has denied that the man fled to the country, saying it was not informed by Thai authorities that he was trying to enter.

Earlier Malaysian police announced the arrests of three people suspected of helping the bombers flee. Thai police have already arrested two suspects.

Over the weekend, an arrest warrant was issued for Mr Abudureheman. Police say he left Thailand for Bangladesh on 16 August, one day before the bombing.

"He departed Dhaka on 30 August for Delhi... From Delhi, he continued his travel to Abu Dhabi, and from Abu Dhabi he travelled on 31 August to Istanbul. This is his final destination," a police spokesperson said.

No group has said it carried out the attack at the Erawan shrine on 17 August, but Thailand has alleged that a network that includes foreigners was behind the bombing.

Image copyright Thai Police HO via AP
Image caption Police are still searching for the main suspect

One the suspects already arrested, Yusufu Meraili, is a Chinese national born in Xinjiang, according to police. They say he has already confessed to handing a backpack to the suspected bomber at Bangkok's main railway station shortly before the blast.

The main suspect - a man wearing a yellow T-shirt who left a rucksack at the shrine moments before the explosion - is still believed to be on the run.

Xinjiang is home to a significant number of Uighur Muslims, and Chinese authorities have faced criticism for the perceived harsh restrictions placed on religion and culture in the region.

Thailand recently found itself in the spotlight following its forced repatriation of more than 100 Uighurs to China.

Malaysia arrests

Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the three suspects were detained a few days ago and were assisting with the investigation.

The Pakistani man, Malaysian man, and Malaysian woman, were arrested based on a tip-off from Thai authorities.

Thai police say the suspects are involved in people smuggling and may have helped the bombers leave the country.

"Whether they are involved in our bombing incident or not we will have to wait and see," a Thai police spokesman said.

Five members of a single Malaysian family were among those killed in the bombing.