Image: Thai Muslim villagers remove a victim's body from a mosque
Madaree Tohlala  /  AFP - Getty Images
Thai Muslim villagers remove a victim's body from a mosque in the Cho-i-Rong distrist of Thailand's restive southern province of Narathiwat on June 9, 2009, a day after gunmen stormed the mosque killing 11 people during evening prayers.
updated 6/8/2009 3:16:58 PM ET 2009-06-08T19:16:58

Gunmen opened fire on a mosque in southern Thailand during evening prayers Monday, killing at least 10 people and wounding another 19 in the violence-plagued region, police said.

Five or six men shot automatic rifles into the mosque in Narathiwat province's Joh-I-Rong district, said police Lt. Col. Somjai Singkliang. Among those who died at the scene was the Imam, or prayer leader.

Somjai said 13 of the 19 wounded in the attack were in serious condition.

The attack was one of the most deadly single incidents since an Islamic separatist insurgency was launched in Thailand's three southernmost provinces in early 2004. More than 3,400 people have been killed in the violence, most victims of the insurgents.

Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces, where virtually all the violence has occurred, are the only Muslim-majority provinces in predominantly Buddhist Thailand. Southern Muslims have long complained of discrimination, especially in education and job opportunities.

Teachers killed
Last week two teachers, one eight months pregnant, were killed in Narathiwat in an attack attributed to the insurgents. The deaths triggered intense anger among the area's Buddhist community.

Security forces sometimes blame insurgents for attacks on Muslim individuals and institutions, claiming they mean to stir up hatred to boost their cause and trigger sectarian strife. Very rarely does any group claim responsibility for any attacks on either community.

Insurgent attacks — which include drive-by shootings and bombings — are believed intended to frighten Buddhist residents into leaving the area. They also target Muslims whom the rebels believe have collaborated with the government, including soldiers, police, informants and civilians.

The identity and precise goals of the insurgents have never been publicly declared. They pursue an ill-defined agenda that sometimes seems to call for a separate Islamic state.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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