By SUMETH PANPETCH / AP WRITER
PATTANI, Thailand — Suspected Muslim insurgents killed ten civilians in a flurry of attacks in the insurgency-plagued southern Thailand, the army said Tuesday, the fifth anniversary of a bloody assault by security forces against militants at a mosque.
In the deadliest incident, at least six gunmen in a pickup truck stormed into a house in Yala province late Monday, opening fire on a Muslim family of five, army spokesman Col Parinya Chaidilok said. Four people were killed.
Parinya says two Muslim rubber plantation workers were later found dead in the compound of a nearby mosque. Thai security officials blamed Islamic insurgents bent on stirring up communal tension between Buddhists and Muslims.
The incidents came ahead of the fifth anniversary of the April 28, 2004, assault on the Krue Se mosque by Thai security forces, in which 32 insurgents were killed.
Other clashes the same day between Muslims and government forces resulted in the deaths of a total of 107 people at the hands of security forces, turning the mosque attack into a symbol of the heavy-handed tactics of Thai authorities.
The killings fueled a nascent insurgency that has claimed more than 3,400 lives in Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and some parts of neighboring Songkhla.
In the latest attack, a Buddhist government official was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting Tuesday in Pattani, Parinya said. In a separate incident Monday evening, gunmen fatally shot a Muslim who served as a government-hired security volunteer in Yala province.
Another Muslim man was killed in a drive-by shooting in the same province Monday evening.
In another district of Yala province, suspected militants fatally shot a Buddhist rubber plantation worker Tuesday.
Insurgent attacks—which include drive-by shootings and bombings—are believed intended to frighten Buddhist residents into leaving the area. They also target Muslims who they believe have collaborated with the government, including soldiers, police, informants and civilians.
The identity and precise goals of the insurgents have never been publicly declared, and responsibility is rarely claimed for attacks. They pursue an ill-defined agenda that sometimes seems to call for an Islamic state separate from Buddhist-dominated Thailand, but is mostly a reaction to a history of discrimination.
Southern Muslims have long complained of discrimination, especial in educational and job opportunities, in Buddhist-dominated Thailand.