A Thai court issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday for a suspected Muslim militant who authorities believe detonated a car bomb in the insurgency-plagued south, wounding dozens of people.
The 110-pound (50-kilogram) car bomb exploded in the city of Narathiwat outside a packed restaurant lunchtime on Tuesday. Twelve people were hospitalized. At least 30 others, including the district chief in charge of the area, suffered minor injuries. Police Major General Peera Poompichet said the Criminal Court of Narathiwat province issued an arrest warrant for Imran Ming, 28, based on footage from a closed-circuit camera.
"The footage showed clearly the man walking out of a pickup truck before walking away and fleeing the scene before the explosion," Peera said. "He is an important figure on an operative level."
The explosive packed in a gas canister was hidden in the pickup truck outside the restaurant and triggered by a mobile phone, police said.
Peera said Imran is also wanted for shooting two Buddhist teachers on June 2. One of them was eight months pregnant. More than 3,700 people have been killed in Thailand's three southernmost provinces,Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala , since an insurgency flared in January 2004. The provinces are the only Muslim-majority areas in the Buddhist-dominated country. Muslims in the area have long complained of discrimination by the central government.
A massive security presence has failed to stop the violence, which has killed both Muslims and Buddhists. Many suspected insurgents have been rounded up during search operations, but few have been prosecuted.
The militants target civil servants and others working with the government, including soldiers, police and informants. Attacks on civilians are thought to be intended to scare the Buddhist community into fleeing.
The shadowy insurgents are generally believed to be fighting to carve out an independent Muslim state. The area used to be an Islamic sultanate until it was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century.