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Thai air force helicopter crashes; 6 officers dead

A Thai military helicopter crashed while transporting officers to a base in the country's restive south Wednesday, killing all ten on board, an air force spokesman said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Thai military helicopter crashed while transporting officers to a base in the country's restive south Wednesday, killing all ten on board, an air force spokesman said.

The cause of the late morning crash was under investigation but authorities had ruled out the involvement of Islamic separatists in the downing of the chopper, Capt. Monthon Suchakorn said.

"We have received report that the air force helicopter crashed and that all ten officers on board were killed," Monthon said. "We believe it might be due to engine failure."

Earlier, Monthon said there were six on board but the rescue team later found the rest of the bodies.

The helicopter was carrying two pilots and two engineers, he said. The rest were research and rescue officers.

The helicopter crashed in Yala province's Bethong district, near the Malaysian border, Monthon said. Yala is among three Muslim-dominated provinces where an insurgency has raged for four years.

More than 3,300 people have been killed since the militants launched their offensive against the Thai government in 2004. Muslims in the south say the central government of mainly Buddhist Thailand discriminates against them, particularly in jobs and education.