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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Four shot dead in Thailand's restive south

YALA, Thailand (AFP) - Four Thais, including a two-year-old boy, have been shot dead by suspected Islamic militants in the kingdom's insurgency-torn south, police said.

A 35-year-old Buddhist police officer was gunned down early Saturday at his house in Narathiwat, one of three restive southern provinces along the Malaysian border, they said.

Also in Narathiwat, a group of militants stormed the house of a 48-year-old Muslim villager late Friday and killed him and his two-year-old son, police said.

In neighboring Yala province, insurgents also shot dead a 38-year-old Muslim government employee late Friday.

The three provinces were an ethnic Malay sultanate until Buddhist Thailand annexed them a century ago.

More than 1,400 people have been killed in the mainly Muslim provinces since the latest violence erupted in January 2004.

Local government officials, police, troops and Buddhists are often targeted by Islamic insurgents, but Muslims seen as sympathetic to the government are also attacked.

Officials have said the bloodshed includes not only separatist violence but also fighting tied to organized crime, smuggling and local corruption.

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