Thai police confirmed that at least 18 people were killed Monday evening local time when a bomb exploded outside a religious shrine in central Bangkok.
“The death toll is now 16,” police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri told AFP, adding the blast was likely politically motivated and designed to bring “chaos” in a the junta-ruled kingdom.
At least 10 Thais, one Chinese and one Filipino citizen were among the dead, police said. There are no known Israeli casualties.
Earlier reports placed the death toll as high as 27 people, and the wounded at 78.
Body parts were scattered across the street after the bomb went off outside the Erawan Shrine in the downtown Chidlom district of the Thai capital, an area popular with tourists.
At least two bombs were found at the scene, said Maj. Gen. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, a spokesman for Thailand’s ruling junta. He said at least one had detonated.
Local newspaper Bangkok Post said that most of the wounded were foreigners. Unconfirmed reports suggested many were from China and Taiwan.
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said it had no information about Israeli casualties. In a statement, the ministry said it was in continuous contact with the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok to receive updates on what initial reports suggest may have been a terror attack. The embassy is operating under a special protocol and will continue to operate in this manner in the coming hours, the ministry said without elaborating.
The blast hit at around 6:30 pm when the streetside shrine was packed with worshipers.
“I can confirm it was a bomb, we can’t tell which kind yet, we are checking,” Thavornsiri said.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene said he saw one body and scattered body parts from multiple victims, while two people were being put into ambulances.
The explosion took place at the Rajprasong intersection, the site of many contentious political demonstrations in recent years.
Thailand is a favorite tourist destination for Israelis. According to the Israel Airports Authority, some 212,000 Israelis visited the east Asian country in 2014.
Thailand’s capital has been relatively peaceful since a military coup ousted a civilian government in May last year after several months of sometimes violent political protests against the previous government. However, there has been some tension in recent months as the junta has made clear it may not hold elections until 2017 and wants a constitution that will allow some type of emergency rule to take the place of an elected government.
Car bombs are almost unknown in Bangkok, but have been used in southern Thailand, where a Muslim separatist insurgency has been flaring in several years.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.