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Deadly Explosion Rocks Thailand's Capital City

Thai soldiers inspect the scene after a bomb exploded Monday evening near the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok. Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images

Thai soldiers inspect the scene after a bomb exploded Monday evening near the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok.

Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images

Update, 12:45 a.m.:

At least 22 people were killed and 123 injured in the explosion, authorities reported early Monday, according to CNN; the dead included Filipino Chinese, Singaporean and Malaysian nationals.

Thailand's prime minister described the attack as "the worst incident that has ever happened in Thailand," the AP reported. "There have been minor bombs or just noise, but this time they aim for innocent lives. They want to destroy our economy, our tourism."

Authorities told the BBC that they were investigating a suspect seen on security camera footage; for now, the network's Jonathan Head says, there's no shortage of suspects.

"People might wonder if it was the Muslim insurgency fighting for an independent state in the deep south. Lots of bombs go off there but, the insurgents have never perpetrated an attack outside their own area, so this would be an entire change in tactics.

"People also look at the recent political violence and wonder if factions who lost out might have been involved."

Original Post:

An explosion tore through a major intersection in the center of Bangkok, Thailand's capital city, near a Hindu shrine popular with tourists.

Multiple news reports put the number of people killed at more than a dozen. Scores of people were wounded in the blast at about 7 p.m. local time.

Maj. Gen. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, a spokesman for Thailand's ruling junta, said there were at least two bombs and that at least one had detonated, according to The Associated Press.

Michael Sullivan, reporting from the Thai city of Chiang Rai, filed this report for NPR's Newscast unit:

"The explosion occurred at the Rajprasong intersection in the central business district, in front of the Erawan Shrine, a popular tourist destination. Police say several foreigners are among the injured. It's the same place where anti-government demonstrations were forcibly dispersed by the Thai military in 2010. TV footage from the scene shows fires burning and the charred remains of several motorcycles. It's not known what caused the explosion.

"The Thai capital has been fairly peaceful since the military deposed a democratically elected government in May 2014, after months of sometimes violent protest against that government. The military pledged to return the country to democratic rule by later this year or early 2016."

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the blast.

A woman at the scene told Reuters that a soldier ordered onlookers to step back from the blast site as officials swept the area for any additional bombs.

The BBC's Jonathan Head was at the scene in Bangkok, and tells Newscast:

"We're surrounded by bodies, pieces of bodies. There's blood everywhere. It's an appalling scene. Looking at the crater, there's the smell of smoke and burning and just everywhere around us, bodies and injured people. It's a dreadful, dreadful scene and nobody can really understand what it is or why it's happened. It's completely unexpected. It's a very, very popular shrine, the people around the shrine were hit by the full force of the blast."

Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told Reuters that "the perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district."

Meanwhile, there is speculation that the attack may be politically driven. Reuters reports that Thailand "has been riven for a decade by an intense and sometimes violent struggle for power between political factions in Bangkok."