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Malaysia Detains 8 Suspects for Questioning About Thai Blast

Malaysian police Deputy Inspector Gen. Noor Rashid Ibrahim gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015.

Eight people, including four believed to be ethnic Uighurs, have been detained in Malaysia for questioning in connection with last month's bombing of a shrine in Bangkok that killed 20 people, a senior official said Wednesday.

National deputy police chief Noor Rashid Ibrahim said they were detained in the past week in Kuala Lumpur as well as in northeastern Kelantan state.

Four of the eight were Malaysians involved in human trafficking, while another four were believed to be Uighur men who entered the country illegally, he said. While there is no evidence they were directly involved in the bombing they are being investigated to see if they had any role in other activities surrounding the blast.

“Right now, there is no concrete evidence to show that they are directly involved,” Noor Rashid told reporters.

He said Thai police have been notified, and he hopes they can aid in identifying the men. Thailand will need to provide basic proof of their involvement in the bombing if it wants to extradite the suspects, he said.

Noor Rashid initially said the Uighurs had no documents on them and that their only offence was entering Malaysia illegally from Thailand. However, he later said they had passports but it was unclear if they were genuine. He didn't give further details.

The Aug. 17 blast at the Erawan Shrine in the Thai capital also injured more than 120. Many of the victims were foreigners as the shrine is a popular destination for tourists and Thais alike.

In Bangkok, Thai Police Chief Somyot Poompanmoung said he has not received any confirmation from the Malaysian police that the suspects were involved in the blast.

Thai authorities have arrested 2 suspects they say were linked to the bombing, but believe the actual bomber and the mastermind of the plot have fled the country.

Thailand has suggested that those behind the blast may have been from a gang involved in smuggling Uighurs from the Chinese region of Xinjiang, while others speculate they may be separatists or Islamist extremists angry that Thailand repatriated more than 100 Uighurs to China in July.

Uighurs complain of oppression by the Chinese government, and some advocate turning Xinjiang into a separate Uighur state.