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article imageDeath toll reaches 16 in bombing at Hindu shrine in Bangkok

By Nathan Salant     Aug 17, 2015 in World
Bangkok - Sixteen people were killed and more than 80 injured Monday when a bomb exploded near a Hindu shrine in central Bangkok, authorities in Thailand are reporting.
The explosion sent bodies flying, damaged the shrine walls and left a six-foot crater in the busy downtown Ratchaprasong intersection in Pathum Wan, near the government-owned Erawan Hotel, according to the Reuters news service.
"It was a pipe bomb," said Somyot Poompanmuang, Thailand's national police chief.
"It was placed inside the Erawan shrine," Somyot said.
Three of the dead were foreign tourists in a district of hotels and shopping malls popular with travelers, Reuters said.
Most of the wounded were from China and Taiwan, Reuters said.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the blast, which went off at 7 p.m. Thailand time..
Initial reports from the scene indicated more than 20 people were killed, but Somyot said the preliminary reports were incorrect, Reuters said.
Initial suspicions are expected to focus on Thailand's long-simmering Muslim insurgency in the country's south.
"The perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism, because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district," said Thailand's defense minister, Prawit Wongsuwan.
In the moments after the explosion, the Ratchaprasong intersection was strewn with burned motorcycle, rubble from the shrine and pools of blood.
"There were bodies everywhere," Marko Cunningham, a new paramedic from New Zealand, told Reuters.
"There were legs where heads were supposed to be -- It was horrific," Cunningham said.
Authorities initially cleared the area to search for additional explosives but none were found, Reuters said.
Still, Thailand's military government stepped up security checks around the city, but Bangkok's elevated railway operated normally.
The army has ruled Thailand since May 2014, when it ousted an elected government after months of anti-government protests.
The intersection also was the scene of months of protests in support of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2010.
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