SOUTHERN VIOLENCE ONGOING MAYHEM
Rebels kill eight soldiers in bombing, behead one
Insurgents killed eight soldiers and beheaded one of them in an ambush yesterday in what is seen as one of the most brutal acts since violence erupted in the far South four years ago. Maj-Gen Theerachai Nakavanich, the commander of the Narathiwat task force, said the ambushers escaped to a mountainous area near the scene of the attack in tambon Dusongyor in Narathiwat's Chanae district. About 300 police and soldiers were combing the area to look for the killers, he added.
Eight soldiers in a 12-strong team escorting teachers were killed around 9.30am yesterday when a bomb exploded under the Humvee they were riding in on the Reupo-Ka Yae road, police said. Four other soldiers travelling by motorcycle survived the attack.
After the blast at least 20 armed insurgents emerged from their hiding places and shot the soldiers in the head and beheaded one soldier, before fleeing with the soldiers' firearms, including eight M16 assault rifles, an 11mm pistol and an M60 machine gun.
One of the victims was Sub-Lt Anond Boontham, the unit leader.
The severely damaged Humvee was found overturned about 50 metres from the bomb crater. Police said the insurgents detonated the powerful bomb, estimated to contain some 20kg of explosives, under the road as the army unit arrived.
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont downplayed the incident, ruling out the notion that the militants want to step up their operations to instil more fear in the far South.
Such attacks could happen at any time and the best way to prevent them was for authorities to be more cautious while on duty, he told reporters.
In Yala, another two members of a teachers' escort unit were injured in a bomb attack in Yaha district.
Pvt Pipobchoke Chuyong, 23, sustained a cut to the leg from shrapnel and Pvt Matohae Chae, 23, was wounded in the back. Doctors said the injuries were not serious.
The 16-member team was patrolling the Patae-Bannang Sata road on foot when the bomb, estimated at 10kg, went off nearby.
Shortly after the attack, two nearby schools were closed.
Earlier, telephone lines in the district were cut, disrupting both land lines and mobile phone services in the area.
In Narathiwat, the hunt continued for six suspected insurgents who escaped from police detention in Muang district on Sunday.
Police searched the suspects' homes and their relatives' homes in Narathiwat and neighbouring Yala province, but found no trace of them.
Checkpoints were put up in all districts of Narathiwat. Photos of the fugitives were put online for immigration officers at border checkpoints as well as Malaysian officials. The six were described as security threats.
A source said police had the details of the boat used in the escape, which picked up the suspects from near Tanyong police station. Fishermen saw the boat but had not been alerted of the prison break, the source said.
The prime minister blamed police for lax security measures which allowed the suspects to escape.