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Eight massacred in van ambush


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From Bangkok Post:

 

Eight massacred in van ambush

 

Southern atrocity sparks angry protests

 

POST REPORTERS

 

 

Troops carry the bodies of eight victims from the bullet-riddled van after the ambush by insurgents in Yala yesterday morning. Another two people were wounded in the attack, one critically. — MUHAMMAD AYUB PATHAN

 

 

A savage attack by insurgents on a passenger van in the deep South, in which eight people were executed with shots to the head, sparked angry condemnation across the country yesterday. Demonstrators took to the streets in the provincial capitals of Ayutthaya, Rayong, Chumphon, Krabi, Si Sa Ket and Chiang Rai, with more protests expected today.

 

The displays of outrage came soon after the public learned from news reports of the atrocity, which occurred in Yala's Yaha district.

 

Police said eight passengers were found dead, with gunshot wounds in their heads and chests, inside a bullet-riddled van which had run off the Yaha-Bannang Sata road and hit a tree after it came under a hail of gunfire about 8.20am.

 

The dead were initially identified as Pvt 1st Class Kitipong Nunoi, Prawit Chomputhong, Prawit's 16-year-old daughter Vilasinee, Prachuap sae Lim, Supawan sae Lu, and Supawan's daughter Kirati. The other two bodies belonged to a male and female believed to be in their 40s.

 

Two other people were wounded and admitted to Yala Central hospital.

 

One of the wounded was the van driver, Abdulraman Kodae, 41. The other was an unknown woman in her 30s, who was in a critical condition.

 

Police said the assailants also made off with the passengers' wallets.

 

The rescue team took time reaching the crime scene as they were hindered by felled trees and metal spikes on the road.

 

Police said the van belonged to Betong Tour 2001 Co Ltd, which runs a regular shuttle service between Yala's Betong district and Songkhla's Hat Yai district.

 

The van left Betong with nine passengers about 7am.

 

It was headed for Yaha district to pick up another passenger who had made an advance booking.

 

Mr Abdulraman said he knew something was wrong when he saw a tree trunk lying on the road.

 

He made a U-turn, at which point ambushers armed with AK and M16 assault rifles, emerged from concealment and sprayed the vehicle with bullets.

 

The van skidded off the road and hit a tree.

 

The gunmen then surrounded the van and started shooting the passengers one by one in the head at close range. They also stole the victims' wallets.

 

Mr Abdulraman said he heard the gunmen being ordered to shoot everyone inside the van.

 

Fifteen minutes later, a roadside bomb exploded as a group of rangers going to the attack scene was passing, but no one was hurt.

 

An intelligence source said the attack occurred in an area infiltrated by the Gerekan Mujahidin Islam Patani group.

 

Betong Tour 2001 Co Ltd immediately suspended its service. Some people opted to take a detour through Malaysia instead.

 

Army spokesman Col Akara Thip-piroj said the insurgents appeared to have deliberately gone for a soft target and the ambushers might include youths who had been brainwashed.

 

They were bent on creating fear among the public so people would stop cooperating with the authorities, he said.

 

Yala governor Theera Minthrasak condemned the attack as barbaric and offered his condolences to the families of the victims.

 

Security will be tightened, with regular patrols on roads prone to attacks.

 

Chidchanok Rahimbula of the Prince of Songkla University's Pattani campus said more attacks on Buddhists could touch off a serious rift between Buddhists and Muslims.

 

In Chumphon, a large number of people converged at the provincial hall to write messages condemning the killers.

 

A similar activity was reported in Rayong, and effigies of southern separatists were burnt in Si Sa Ket.

 

In Chiang Rai, residents took to the streets to condemn the attack.

 

A security source said the escalating violence, which appeared in some cases to be directed at Buddhists, may provoke confrontation between Buddhist and Muslim communities.

 

Later yesterday, there was an explosion in Yaha district outside a mosque after where people had gathered after evening prayers. Eleven people were injured, two of them seriously.

 

The bomb was hurled from a passing car, a sedan.

 

Later last night, two people were killed and 10 others injured when armed men fired at a tea shop in the same district.

 

In Pattani's Khok Pho district, a married couple were wounded in a drive-by shooting yesterday morning.

 

In Narathiwat, a policeman remained in a critical condition last night after being attacked in Bacho district yesterday morning.

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