NBC News – BANGKOK — Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday that authorities were looking for a "suspect" seen on closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage near the site of a bomb blast that that ripped through a busy intersection in central Bangkok killing 22 people — including eight foreigners.
"I have ordered the cameras be checked because there is one suspect, but it is not clear who he is," Prayuth told reporters at Bangkok's Government House.
"This is the worst incident that has ever happened," Chan-ocha said. "In the past, there have been some blasts and minor explosions. But this time, they aimed to take the lives of innocent people."
The bomb blast did "not match" the tactics used by separatist rebels in Thailand's south, the country's army chief said on Tuesday (local time).
"This does not match with incidents in southern Thailand. The type of bomb used is also not in keeping with the south," Royal Thai Army chief and deputy defense minister General Udomdej Sitabutr said in a televised interview.
On Monday, the U.S. State Department said it was too soon to tell if the blast that injured over 120 people was a terrorist attack. Spokesman John Kirby said authorities in Thailand were investigating and had not requested assistance from U.S. officials so far.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast on Monday evening, which left scores wounded, and officials in Thailand have yet to blame any group.
Thailand's three southernmost provinces are home to a long-running Muslim separatist insurgency. Since 2004, more than 6,500 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in violence in the region. The violence has rarely spilled over beyond those provinces.
"The perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism, because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district," Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told Reuters.
The government would set up a "war room" to coordinate the response to the blast, the Nation television channel quoted Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as saying.
At least two people from China and one from the Philippines were among the dead, a tourist police officer said. Media said most of the wounded were from China and Taiwan.
"It was like a meat market," said Marko Cunningham, a New Zealand paramedic working with a Bangkok ambulance service, who said the blast had left a 6-foot-wide crater.
"There were bodies everywhere. Some were shredded. There were legs where heads were supposed to be. It was horrific," Cunningham said, adding that people several hundred feet away had been injured.