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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Five soldiers dead in Thai south
Soldiers in Yala province
Security is heavy in Thailand's southern provinces
Five soldiers in southern Thailand have been killed in a drive-by shooting at a military post in Narathiwat province.

A Thai army spokesman said the gunmen, suspected to be Muslim insurgents, fired shots from assault rifles as they sped by in a pick-up truck.

The attackers then fled, reportedly foiling attempts to chase them by throwing metal spikes onto the road.

The largely Islamic Thai south has been hit by a wave of violence since early 2004, killing more than 900 people.

The government has blamed Muslim separatists for the unrest.

Beheading

The five men - members of the paramilitary Ranger force -were killed late on Wednesday at one of the many military checkpoints along Thailand's southern border with Malaysia.

Two of their colleagues were also wounded in the attack.

VIOLENCE-HIT SOUTH
Home to most of Thailand's 4% Muslim minority
Muslim rebels fought the government up to the mid-80s
Suspected militants have upped attacks since 2004, targeting Buddhists
Security forces' response criticised by rights groups

"The soldiers were taking an evening break when dozens of militants attacked them, and these troops had no way to defend themselves," Police Colonel Thanongsak Wangsupa told Reuters news agency.

In a separate incident, a villager was found beheaded in Yala province on Wednesday morning. He, again, is assumed to be a victim of suspected militants.

Police were alerted to the killing late on Tuesday, but a spokesman said officers waited until Wednesday to go to the scene for fear the report was just a ploy by militants who might have set booby traps at the scene.

Police said it was unclear if the victim was Buddhist or Muslim, but as in previous murders a note was left beside the man's body saying he had been killed in retaliation for actions by police.

The note read: "You have arrested innocent people from the village. I have killed innocent people in return," a policeman told reporters.




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