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Five Thai soldiers killed, extremists suspected

Thailand said Wednesday that gunmen in a pickup truck and motorcycles killed five soldiers at a post in the south of the country.
/ Source: news services

Gunmen in a pickup truck and motorcycles killed five soldiers at a south Thailand military outpost Wednesday evening, a Thai Army spokesman said.

Two other soldiers at the outpost were wounded, said Col. Somkuan Saengpataranetr.

The attackers, believed to be Islamic insurgents, shot the men with assault rifles and then escaped, laying metal spikes and logs on the road to thwart pursuers, Somkuan said.

Wednesday's attack took place in the southern province of Narathiwat.

The victims were members of the paramilitary Ranger force, as were four other soldiers killed in an ambush last week in nearby Yala province.

Suspected Muslim militants also beheaded a villager in Yala, police said on Wednesday.

The head and torso of the man, thought to be in his 50s, were dumped in two fertilizer bags beside a road in Yala, one of the three southernmost provinces hit by the violence in which more than 900 people have died.

Beheaded man
Police said villagers told them about the beheaded man on Tuesday, but were too scared of booby traps or ambushes to examine the scene until Wednesday.

“We were afraid of falling into the militants’ trap,” a police investigator at the scene told Reuters by telephone. “They might have triggered a bomb once we reached there.”

Booby traps, decoy attacks and ambushes of army and police convoys have become daily occurrences in the densely wooded Muslim-majority region, suggesting the anti-Bangkok guerrillas are becoming more sophisticated and inventive.

The policeman said it was unclear if the victim was Buddhist or Muslim, although as with previous beheadings of Buddhists, a note was left beside the victim's head saying the murder was in retaliation for police actions.

The decapitation was the 11th in 21 months of violence.

The violence flared in January 2004 in Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, where militants fought a low-key separatist war in the 1970s and 1980s.

Bangkok has flooded the region, where 80 percent of people are Muslim, with 30,000 troops and police, whose presence has angered many locals and failed to make any headway to stem the unrest.