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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 15:13 GMT
Nine killed in southern Thailand
Police inspect dead bodies in Yala - 14/3/07
Several passengers were shot in the head
Nine people have been killed in an attack on a minibus in southern Thailand, police have said.

The incident, which also left one person injured, has been blamed on suspected Muslim insurgents.

The minibus was taking people from the province of Yala to Hat Yai, the south's major city, in the neighbouring province of Songkhla.

About 2,000 people have died in Thailand's restive south since a resurgence of unrest in January 2004.

Even by the region's brutal standards, Wednesday's attack was shocking, the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says.

Gunmen opened fire on the van after it had to stop because of a fallen tree, police said.

The men then opened the doors and shot each of the passengers, including two children, at point blank range.

All the passengers were Buddhist, the police said. Only the driver, a Muslim, survived.

Daily attacks

In contrast with the rest of Thailand, the south is predominantly Islamic, and most of the people living there have more in common with Malays, who live over the border, than with Buddhist Thais.

map

There are almost daily bombings and shooting attacks targeting representatives of the Thai authorities - police, soldiers, teachers and sometimes ordinary civilians.

Officials blame Muslim insurgents for much of the unrest, although criminal gangs are also thought to be behind some of the attacks.

Wednesday's ambush took place a day after the anniversary of the founding of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), one of the main separatist groups in the region.

Police had warned that insurgents might try to mark the anniversary by launching attacks in the area.

Already this week, a Burmese migrant worker has been beheaded, several schools have been torched and a bomb set off in a morning market.




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