View Full Version : Scores killed in Thai gun battles

Mr Grimsdale
04-28-2004, 03:29 AM
Scores killed in Thai gun battles (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3665293.stm)

More than 95 people are said to have been killed in a spate of gun battles in southern Thailand.
Suspected Islamic militants armed with guns and machetes carried out a series of co-ordinated attacks on police bases in the region, security forces said.

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has blamed local gun-smuggling gangs for the attacks.

But officials on the ground have pinned the blame on Islamic separatists trained by militant groups.

The BBC correspondent in Bangkok, Kylie Morris, says the fighting is a serious escalation of the violence that began in early January with a raid on a military arsenal.

In the intervening months, more than 100 people have been killed in almost daily small-scale attacks.

Wednesday's violence took place in the three Muslim-dominated provinces of Thailand - Yala, Pattani and Songkhla.

Although security officials were tipped off to expect the dawn attacks, few would have envisaged their scale, our correspondent says.

Police in Yala say the attackers were mainly young men, dressed in black, wielding machetes. Some were armed with semi-automatic weapons.

Local television showed pictures of police and troops taking up positions in rural areas, and wounded border troops being carried on stretchers.

One battle was reported to have erupted near a mosque in Pattani's Kruesei district.

Four security personnel are said to be among those killed, compared with over 90 insurgent deaths.

Prime Minister Thaksin said the toll among security forces was low because the attackers had been armed only with machetes and a few guns.

But he said the fact many were riding brand-new motorcycles suggested they were receiving financial support from influential figures in the area.

"Local politicians are involved," he said, adding that the attacks were due to "organised crime mixed with politics".

He described the militants as "youths from the southern provinces" whose actions were "not linked with international terrorists".

When violence resurfaced in the south in January, with a raid on a military arsenal in the province of Narathiwat, the prime minister delivered a similar verdict.

But many observers say the troubles have been exacerbated by the government's own policy of cracking down on the militants.

Islamic community leaders in the south say the tactics employed by security forces have been heavy-handed and may have served to encourage those who already felt disenfranchised.