15 killed in South Thailand, army points to Muslims rebels

15 killed in South Thailand, army points to Muslims rebels

BANGKOK: At least 15 people were killed and four others injured in attacks perpetrated by suspected Muslim militants in South Thailand late yesterday.

The suspected militants struck two checkpoints in Yala province manned by civil defence volunteers, opening fire on them as a group of villagers stopped to have chat.

“Twelve were killed at the scene, two at the hospital, and one died this morning,” said army spokeperson Pramote Prom-in.

He added that the militants also escaped with M-16 rifles and shotguns from the checkpoints.

“The areas around the checkpoints have been closed and are currently under forensic investigation,” said Pramote.

South Thailand has seen countless bloody insurgency by Muslim separatists, seeking autonomy from the Buddhist majority nation.

Yesterday’s attack marked the largest coordinated effort after a long time, said Don Pathan, an expert on the Muslim insurgency in Thailand.

“The incidents have been fewer in recent years, but the hits have been more intense. It is a reminder that they are still here,” he said.

The Muslim rebels accuse the Thai government of railroading their culture, claiming the army had carried out abuses on their community.

Yesterday’s violence comes months after the death of a Muslim man, Abdulloh Esormusor, who was left in a coma after being interrogated at a notorious Thai detention centre.

Rebel suspects are routinely taken for interrogation and held under emergency laws in detention centres where rights groups have cried torture.

Days after Abdulloh’s detention, four people were killed in a late-night attack on a military outpost, fuelling speculation of a retaliatory operation.

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