Grenade attacks at site of Thai red-shirt protests

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The Independent Online

A series of grenade blasts shook Bangkok's business district yesterday, killing at least three people and wounding 75, heightening tensions during a showdown between troops and anti-government protesters.

Five explosions hit an area packed with soldiers and studded with banks, office towers and hotels. The grenades were fired into an area where hundreds of pro-government protesters were gathering. Four were seriously wounded, including two foreigners.

Troops, many armed with M-16 assault rifles, have poured into the area since Monday to contain red shirt protesters, who have formed a barricade at an intersection leading into the bustling district also known for racy go-go bars. "It's worrying," said Herman Koopman, a tourist from the Netherlands. "The police and army don't seem to be in control."

The blasts were caused by M-79 grenades, according to Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd. The same type of grenade – fired with a shoulder-mounted launcher – that hit troops during a bloody clash with protesters that killed 25 people on 10 April.

Col Sansern said the grenades seemed to have been fired from the red shirt protest area. Leaders of the red shirts, who have been demonstrating in Bangkok for nearly seven weeks seeking new elections, denied they were responsible.

Television footage showed blood splattered across pavements, office windows smashed and a chaotic scene as panicked residents carried the injured into ambulances. Troops blocked off roads with razor wire and trained their guns in the air looking to rooftops.

Not far from the explosions, tens of thousands of red-shirted supporters of the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra fortified their redoubt in a Bangkok commercial district with homemade barricades. The army earlier warned it would forcibly disperse the mostly rural and urban poor protesters. "Your days are numbered," Col Sansern said.