Saturday, August 29, 2009

3 killed, 17 wounded in restive southern Thailand

Muslim insurgents shot two off-duty troops and hurled a hand grenade at a group of
villagers playing petanque in restive southern Thailand in separate attacks that left three dead and 17 wounded Saturday.

One of the attacks was a drive-by shooting of two paramilitary troops who were on a hunting trip Saturday when four suspected insurgents chased them and opened fire. The shooting took place in the Bacho district of Narathiwat province. Both of the victims were rangers, who are generally local residents hired as armed auxiliaries to the regular military.

It was the latest attack in a recent rash of bombings in Thailand's three southernmost provinces, where a Muslim insurgency flared in January 2004.
More than 3,700 people have been killed in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces despite a massive military presence. The three provinces are the only Muslim-majority areas in the Buddhist-dominated country.

The shadowy insurgents are generally believed to be fighting to carve out an independent Muslim state. The area used to be an Islamic sultanate until it was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century. Muslims in the area have long complained of discrimination by the central government.

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