SHAFAQNA -Â A motorcycle bomb has exploded in a commercial and tourist center in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, killing 16 people and injuring at least 78 others, according to local media. At least three foreigners were among those killed.
Previous reports put the death toll at 27, but national police chiefÂ Somyot Poompanmuang told reporters that 16 people were killed.
“All I can say now is there has been an explosion in central Bangkok involving a motorcycle bomb,” deputy national police chief Aek Angsananond told Reuters.
Officials say the attack was aimed at destroying Thailand’sÂ economy and tourism.
“The perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district,” Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said.
Many foreign visitors were present at the time of the blast.Â Most of those injured were tourists from China and Taiwan.
The explosion took place atÂ RatchaprasongÂ intersection near Erawan shrine, a tourist attraction in the downtown Chidlom district.
“I heard a boom. I thought it was thunder…but then on Twitter people were saying that something ominous had happened,”said a Periscope user who wasÂ streaming video live from the scene.
Body parts were scattered throughoutÂ the street following the blast, which went off at around 7 p.m. local time.
“There were bodies everywhere. Some were shredded. There were legs where heads were supposed to be. It was horrific,” Marko Cunningham, a New Zealand paramedic working with a Bangkok ambulance service, told Reuters.
Photos showed fire and clouds of smoke, along with smashed car windows and debris littering the streets.
Two more devices were found near the scene and detonated, the Bangkok Post reported.
Police have also recovered an electronic circuit, suspected to be part of the original device, about 30 metres from the blast scene, according to the Bangkok Post.
Nearby offices in the area, which is a busy business district, were reportedlyÂ evacuated, according to reports on social media.
Erawan is a Hindu shrine which it is visited by thousands of peopleÂ every day. Located on a main road, the shrine is surrounded by three major shopping malls and is popular among bothÂ touristsÂ and locals.
No one claimed immediate responsibility for the attack, and such violence in the capital is a rarity.
The Thai government isÂ battling a low-level Muslim insurgency in the country’s predominantly Buddhist south, though rebels have rarely launched attacks outside their ethnic Malay heartland.
Police said that attack was aimed at raising tension when the city was under martial law.
The army has ruled Thailand since May 2014, when it ousted the elected government after months of anti-government protests.