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Asia-pacific

Gunmen kill several worshippers in mosque attack

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-08

At least eleven were killed and twelve wounded when gunmen opened fire on worshippers at a mosque in Thailand's Muslim-majority south. The attack comes amid a sudden spike in a five-year insurgency that has left 3,700 people dead.

AFP - Suspected militants opened fire inside a mosque in Thailand's restive Muslim-majority south Monday, killing at least 11 people and wounding another 12, officials said.

Gunmen armed with assault rifles stormed into the mosque in Cho-ai-rong district in troubled Narathiwat province during evening prayers and sprayed worshippers with bullets, the army and police said.

The attack was one of the bloodiest for months in the region bordering Malaysia and comes amid a sudden spike in a five-year insurgency that has left 3,700 people dead.

"They opened fire indiscriminately at about 50 worshippers inside the mosque," a police official said on condition of anonymity, adding that the dead included the local imam or prayer leader.

He said that up to five gunmen were involved and that they entered the mosque through the back door.

Thai army spokesman Colonel Parinya Chaidilok, however, said there were two attackers, one of whom entered through the front door of the building while the other came in by a side door before opening fire.

He confirmed that 10 people were killed instantly and another died on the way to the hospital, while the 12 wounded were all in critical condition.

Thai authorities have previously blamed most of the violence in the deep south on shadowy, separatist Muslim militants.

Parinya said that the identities of the attackers in Monday's incident were not yet known, but that by attacking a mosque they appeared to be trying to pin the blame on Thai security forces.

"They are trying to make it look like the attackers are the authorities, because Muslims would apparently not shoot inside a mosque. But it's impossible that it is the work of the military," he said.

Earlier Monday a soldier was killed by a bomb blast and militants shot dead a rubber-tapper in Narathiwat, while on Sunday a huge bomb killed two people and destroyed several nearby buildings in the same province.

Buddhist-majority Thailand annexed the former ethnic Malay sultanate in 1902, leading to decades of tension.
 

Date created : 2009-06-08