(AA) – Seven people were injured when a car bomb exploded in a shopping mall on one of Thailand’s most popular tourist islands late Friday evening, local media reported.
The bomb, hidden in a Honda, detonated on the eve of the Thai New Year holiday in the car parking area of the Central Plaza center on Koh Samui at 10.40 p.m. local time (1640GMT) as local and tourist shoppers were leaving the mall, the Matichon news website said on Saturday.
Police said six Thais and a 12-year-old Italian girl were slightly injured in the blast, according to the Bangkok Post, which also reported that the car had been stolen in the southern province of Yala.
Police would not say if they believed the attack was linked to a Muslim insurgency in Thailand’s south, where more than 6,000 people have been killed in the last 11 years.
The separatist conflict has plagued Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces since 2004, with regular shootings and bombings. Militants have not previously carried out attacks beyond the restive southern region bordering Malaysia.
Shortly after the blast, near the popular Chaweng beach resort, a fire struck the Sahakorn Co-op food center in Surat Thani, the mainland provincial capital close to Koh Samui, sparking fears of a link between the two incidents. Both sites were cordoned off on Saturday morning.
Koh Samui, in the Gulf of Thailand, is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. The explosion occurred at the start of the five-day Songkran holiday, as hundreds of thousands converged on beaches.