Rush-hour Bangkok bombing at busy shrine kills 18, hurts 117

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BANGKOK (AP) — Police on Tuesday combed through shattered glass and other debris from a Bangkok bomb blast that killed at least 18 people and injured more than 100 the night before, trying to determine who set off the most devastating single attack in the capital’s recent history.

The explosion at a central Bangkok popular shrine in next to one of the city’s busiest intersections went off around 7 p.m., as the upscale area was filled with tourists, office workers and shoppers.

A man talks into a mobile phone after a large explosion rocked a central Bangkok intersection.(Photo via AP Video)

“We cannot say anything right now because there’s no conclusion yet” and investigators were continuing to gather evidence, said national chief of police Somyot Poompanmoung, who was among those surveying the damage Tuesday morning.

With a powerful flash caught on security video and a boom heard blocks away, the blast from the improvised explosive device scattered body parts across Rachaprasong intersection, spattered blood, blasted windows and burned motorbikes to the metal.

In this April 4, 2015, photo, visitors gather at the Erawan Shrine at the Rajprasong intersection in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

“Suddenly there was a big boom, and the whole room just shook, like someone dropped a wrecking ball on top of our ceiling,” said Pim Niyomwan, an English instructor working on the eighth floor of the building right next to the shrine. “The whole building just shook. My four students were hysterical.”

Video shortly after the blast depicts a scene of shock and desperation: people running for their lives and crying amid the debris. An emergency worker in an ambulance, frantically pounding the chest of a victim.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing.

A wounded Chinese national lies on a gurney at the Police General Hospital after the explosion in Bangkok.(AP Photo/Penny Yi Wang)

“Those who have planted this bomb are cruel,” Somyot said. “They aim to kill because everyone knows that at 7 p.m. the shrine is crowded with Thais and foreigners. Planting a bomb there means they want to see a lot of dead people.”

At least 18 people were confirmed dead and 117 injured, according to the Narinthorn emergency medical rescue center. The dead included Chinese and a Filipino, Somyot said.

Police and soldiers guarded the area Tuesday morning as onlookers stood behind police tape to take pictures. Barricades were set up outside five-star hotels in the neighborhood and security stopped cars to inspect trunks before letting them pass.

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

More than 12 hours after the blast, onlookers dashed for safety as shards of glass torpedoed to the ground from windows of a nearby building. Nobody appeared to have been injured.

As a single, devastating blow to this Southeast Asian metropolis, Monday’s bombing has no equal in recent history, though Thailand is no stranger to violent attacks. A more-than-decade-long insurgency by southern Muslim separatists has left more than 5,000 dead far from the capital. In Bangkok, politically charged riots centered on this very intersection in 2010 killed more than 90 over two months.

Police said the bomb was made with a pipe wrapped in cloth. Police said it was too soon to determine the motive.

National police chief Somyot Poompanmount talks to the media near the site of a large explosion in Banbkok Thailand.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Thailand’s defense minister says investigators are getting closer to determining who set off the bomb that killed at least 18 people in central Bangkok, though he did not give further details.

“It is much clearer who the bombers are, but I can’t reveal right now,” Prawit Wongsuwan said Tuesday. “We have suspects. There are not many people.”

Prawit says Thai authorities had no intelligence on the attack before the Monday night blast.

The defense minister says the bombers intended to discredit the government and harm the economy.

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

“We didn’t expect this to happen in a crowded area,” he says. “They aim to destroy tourism, economy, our country. But during crisis, we can build unity.”

The bomb detonated at Erawan Shrine, which is dedicated to the Hindu god Brahma, but is extremely popular among Thailand’s Buddhists as well as Chinese tourists. Although Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, it has enormous Hindu influence on its religious practices and language.

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Throngs of tourists come there to pray at all hours, lighting incense and offering flowers purchased from rows of stalls set up on the sidewalk along the shrine. The site is a hubbub of activity, with quiet worshippers sometimes flanked by Thai dancers hired by those seeking good fortune, while groups of tourists shuffle in and out.

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok issued an emergency message for U.S. citizens, advising them to avoid the shrine’s area. In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby expressed deep sympathy to those affected by the Bangkok explosion. He said authorities were still determining whether any Americans were among the victims.

Tourists reacted with concern.

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

“We didn’t think anything like this could happen in Bangkok,” said Holger Siegle, a German who said he and his newlywed wife had chosen Thailand because it seemed safe. “Our honeymoon and our vacation will go on, but with a very unsafe feeling.”

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Police investigate the scene at the Erawan Shrine the morning after the explosion in Bangkok.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

A lone police stands on a road near the Erawan Shrine the morning after the explosion in Bangkok.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Police investigate the scene around the Erawan Shrine morning after the explosion in Bangkok.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Associated Press journalists Grant Peck, Charles Dharapak, Jocelyn Gecker, Michael Rubin and Penny Yi Wang contributed to this report.

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