Taiwan train blasts: Injured suspect identified

Above: Investigators inspecting the debris inside the train carriage at Songshan railway station after the blasts on Thursday. Left: A photo of a homemade explosive device found at the railway station.
Above: Investigators inspecting the debris inside the train carriage at Songshan railway station after the blasts on Thursday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Above: Investigators inspecting the debris inside the train carriage at Songshan railway station after the blasts on Thursday. Left: A photo of a homemade explosive device found at the railway station.
Above: A photo of a homemade explosive device found at the railway station.PHOTO: REUTERS

Taiwan police have identified a man they suspect of setting off explosives in a commuter train carriage at Songshan railway station, injuring 25 people, four of whom are in serious condition.

The suspect, Lin Ying-chang, 55, is among the 25 hurt in Thursday's blasts inside one of the carriages of a train that was travelling from Taipei to Keelung in northern Taiwan.

While police have yet to question Lin, the incident - the worst train blasts with the most casualties to date - has led many to ask if he was mentally stable and if more can be done to prevent similar attacks on Taiwan's rail and subway systems.

Police said yesterday that Lin was seen near the explosives at the time of the explosions and traces of his DNA and fingerprints were found on a device, a 47cm-long steel pipe.

 

Closed-circuit TV camera images matched the GPS signals from Lin's phone that track his movements, said the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) last night. A large amount of gunpowder was found on Lin's shirt, which suggests that he was holding the explosives in front of his chest, said the CIB's forensic science department director Yeh Jia-yu.

Lin, who is said to have suffered 30 per cent burns on his upper body, is in intensive care in hospital and is not able to speak for now, said Railway Police Bureau spokesman Wang Pao-zhang.

He said Lin will be questioned when he regains consciousness.

Earlier yesterday, the police ruled out the attack as terrorism following preliminary investigations. But they have not ascertained whether the suspect acted alone or had accomplices. It is also uncertain whether the device exploded by accident or was set off deliberately.

This is not the first attack on a train in Taiwan. Previous train blasts hurt one or two commuters.

In 2014, a college student killed four people in a stabbing spree on Taipei's metro, shocking Taiwan and prompting a security overhaul of the city's public transport systems.

Pointing out that the latest incident is a "lesson learnt", Premier Lin Chuan said yesterday that the authorities will review and improve Taiwan's public transport systems.

Yesterday, the police said they will deploy more officers on trains and to patrol subway and rail stations.

The train incident and previous attacks have rattled commuters, who say they are now more worried about travelling on the Taipei metro and rail systems.

"Even if those are isolated cases, the government should increase surveillance and improve security of the transport system to prevent suspicious or mentally unstable individuals from hurting or killing more people," said sales assistant Huang Qi-mei, who takes the Taipei metro to work in Daan district every day.

The incident has also put the spotlight on the government's efforts to improve the social safety net. President Tsai Ing-wen vowed in her inauguration speech in May to "swiftly mend holes" in the areas of public safety and mental health.

National Chengchi University sociologist Ku Chung-hwa said that while race and religion are not divisive issues in Taiwan, the train incident shows there may be serious problems that can undermine the social fabric of Taiwanese society.

He said: "To prevent people from becoming more fearful, the government has to act fast to tackle economic and social problems, so the marginalised have fewer excuses to vent their frustrations and carry out such attacks."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan train blasts: Injured suspect identified'. Print Edition | Subscribe