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Monday, January 29, 2007

Five shot dead in Thailand's restive Muslim south

YALA, Thailand (AFP) - Five people were shot dead and another person was injured in attacks by suspected Islamic militants in Thailand's insurgency-torn southern provinces, according to police.

A 33-year-old Muslim was gunned down in a drive-by shooting late Sunday as he rode a motorcycle to his home in Yala, one of three Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia, police said.

In neighbouring Pattani province, a 46-year-old Buddhist man was also killed in a drive-by shooting late Sunday.

Meanwhile, two Buddhist couples were shot after insurgents opened fire on a home in Songkhla province, near Yala. Three people were killed, and the fourth was seriously injured, police said.

Despite peace-building initiatives by Thailand's government, installed after a coup four months ago, violence in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat has spiralled in recent months.

More than 1,800 people have been killed in three years of unrest in this region, which was an autonomous Malay sultanate until Thailand annexed it more than a century ago.

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