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Five killed in Thailand's restive south

Five people, including two children, have been killed by suspected Islamic rebels in separate attacks in Thailand's violence-torn south.

world Updated: May 05, 2007 09:05 IST

Five people, including two Muslim children, have been killed by suspected Islamic rebels in separate attacks in Thailand's violence-torn south, police said on Saturday.

A group of militants ambushed a motorcycle late Friday and shot dead a 45-year-old Muslim man and his two children -- an 11-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy, in Yala, one of three Muslim-majority provinces.

Also in Yala, a 37-year-old Muslim man was hacked to death by militants in public view at a market late on Friday, police said.

They also found the body of a man in a river in the province. While the case was still under investigation, police suspected he was a victim of Thailand's three-year insurgency in the south bordering Malaysia.

Police said several hundred Muslim women and children also blocked a highway in Yala on Saturday as they continued their sit-in for the third consecutive day to demand authorities release suspected militants.

Some 20 kilometres (12 miles) away from the sit-in, hundreds of Buddhists also took to the streets, demanding the Muslims end the road blockade.

More than 2,100 people have been killed in the ongoing insurgency in the three southern provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani.

The Muslim-majority provinces were once an autonomous sultanate, until the region was annexed by mainly Buddhist Thailand a century ago.

Separatist unrest has erupted periodically ever since. The military-backed government, which came to power after a September coup, has made peace-building efforts in a bid to rein in the unrest, but violence has escalated in the last six months.