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Wave of attacks in Thailand

Assailants carried out at least 40 bomb and arson attacks Tuesday night in Thailand’s three Muslim-dominated southernmost provinces, police said. At least three people were reported hurt.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Suspected Muslim separatists set fires, exploded bombs and blocked roads in at least 100 attacks Tuesday night in Thailand’s three Muslim-dominated southernmost provinces, police said.

At least three people were reported hurt in the attacks, the latest in a series believed to have been carried out by Muslim insurgents, regional deputy police chief Maj. Woraphong Siewpricha said.

Rubber sheets were burning uncontrollably at the factory in Pattani province’s Nong Chik district, said Maj. Gen.  Kokiart Chuchaiya, the provincial police chief.

Col. Somkuan Kamphira, deputy chief of the regional police investigation unit, said more than 100 attacks occurred across the area, although many involved only the burning of tires on roads.

“I knew beforehand from our intelligence (about the attacks), but it is difficult to prevent. We didn’t know where they were going to do it,” he said.

The attacks, which began at about 8 p.m., took place in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, the only provinces with Muslim majorities in Buddhist-dominated Thailand.

More than 1,500 people have been killed in sectarian violence there since a resurgence of a violent Islamic separatist movement in January 2004.

More than 10 locations in a fourth southern province, Songkhla, were also bombed, including government offices. Some areas of Songkhla are also heavily Muslim and have been involved in the ongoing violence.

A show of strength
A similar wave of dozens of coordinated attacks took place in mid-June. Thai authorities have a massive security presence in the region, but have failed to stem almost-daily violence, which usually involves drive-by shootings or small bombings.

When the insurgents make a show of strength—generally at least every few months—they have eschewed large-scale attacks, preferring well-coordinated pinprick assaults at many locations while avoiding direct clashes with security forces.

Thai TV Channel 9 said Tuesday’s attacks included the burning of police cars and public phone booths. It said two karaoke bars in Narathiwat province had been bombed, but no casualties were reported from those attacks.

Other reports from journalists in the area, based on information from police and military officials, said Molotov cocktails had been thrown at a Buddhist temple in the Rue So district of Narathiwat.

In the same district, assailants set off firecrackers to lure soldiers out of their quarters, and then engaged them in a brief gun battle.

A 3-pound bomb was triggered remotely by a mobile phone outside a local government office in the province’s Cho Airong district as an army patrol passed by, slightly wounding one soldier, and assault rifles were fired at the homes of police and teachers in the province, the reports said.

The situation had returned to normal two hours later, Narathiwat Gov. Pracha Terat told Channel 9. He said the attackers used timing devices to set off bombs.

“It is difficult to catch the assailants because they placed the bombs and left,” he said.

In Pattani, attackers burned phone booths in three districts, and placed spikes and burning tires on roads.

In Yala, tires were also burned on many roads and grenades were thrown at a gas station.