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Thai police: Bangkok shrine bomber likely had accomplices

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Kerek Wongsa/Reuters

(Read caption) A girl places a flower at the Erawan shrine, the site of Monday's deadly blast, in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Video surveillance footage suggests the man who planted a bomb at Bangkok’s Erawan shrine Monday night likely had accomplices, Thai police said Wednesday.

The announcement expands the scope of an investigation which, thus far, has focused on the identity and whereabouts of a bespectacled man in a yellow t-shirt seen on CCTV footage leaving a backpack at the shrine just before the blast.

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"He didn't do it alone, for sure," police chief Somyot Poompanmoung told the Associated Press. "It's a network.”

Details of who that network might comprise, however, or their motives for the attack — which killed 20 and injured 120 more — remain murky. A sketch released Wednesday by police of the main suspect shows a man with round glasses and dark, bushy hair, the Bangkok Post reports. A spokesman for the military government told the BBC they were “quite close” to identifying the man. However, Mr. Poompanmoung told reporters Wednesday that it was unclear whether the suspect was still in the country, as well as whether he was a foreigner or wearing a disguise to mask his identity, the AP reports.

Thai authorities have shied away from speculating about possible motives for the attack, arguing that it could cause panic or derail the investigation, CNN reports

 "From this incident, it is apparent that there are active individuals or groups that harbor the intention to damage Thailand, who may be pursuing political gain or other intentions by damaging the economy and tourism," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Tuesday.

Analysts have speculated about a wide range of groups – including opponents of military rule in the country or a rogue faction in the army or police –but there is so far no evidence to link the attack with any of them.

Asked Tuesday if there was any information on a possible motive for the attack, police spokesman Prawut [Thavornsiri] said it was too soon to reach any conclusions.

Police also say they are offering a reward of 1 million Thai baht ($28,000) for assistance leading to the suspect’s arrest, the AP reports. Police have not elaborated on their assertion that the bomber was working in concert with others, except to say they were sure that Thai citizens were involved, the BBC reports. Police also said an analysis of the remains of the bomb — a pipe bomb containing wheel bearings — leads them to believe it was manufactured in Thailand, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, Thai stocks fell and the baht slumped to a six-year low against the dollar Tuesday. Tourism-linked firms were hardest hit as concerns rose that the attack would severely hamper the lucrative industry, reports Agence France-Presse

"Thailand is vulnerable right now as economic growth and corporate earnings are weak, while tourism is not doing great," Andrew Stotz, CEO of Bangkok-based Stotz Investment Research, told Bloomberg News.

 The timing of the blast just as "we're coming into this high tourism season" means it could be particularly damaging to the tourism sector, which accounts for 8.5% of GDP, he added….

The attack comes after Thailand's economy slowed in the second quarter, hit by weak domestic demand and exports, with growth expected to be hampered this year by China's devaluation of the yuan.