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Nine killed in southern Thailand violence: police

world Updated: Dec 05, 2008 19:52 IST

Nine people have been killed in Thailand's far south in a bloody outbreak of shootings and a bomb attack by suspected separatist insurgents, police and the army said on Friday.

Five villagers were killed when a bomb exploded at a shop near a petrol station on Friday morning in Narathiwat, one of three southern provinces beset by a violent insurgency which erupted in January 2004.

Twelve people were also wounded in the attack, with two policemen and one civilian still in a critical condition.

A provincial police official said that a militant disguised as a vegetable seller walked into the grocery shop and knocked the owner unconscious, before planting the explosives and fleeing.

"It is likely that militants wanted to retaliate for the detention of bomb suspects ... early last month," said Major General Thirayuth Saengrod, deputy army commander in Narathiwat.

Also Friday, a 30-year-old man was shot dead in Yala province and a 22-year-old man was killed in a similar attack in nearby Pattani province.

In Pattani province on Thursday evening, a 60-year-old man and a 32-year-old policeman were killed in separate drive-by shootings.

More than 3,500 people have been killed since separatist unrest erupted almost five years ago in the Muslim-majority far south. Tensions have simmered since Thailand annexed the mainly Malay sultanate in 1902.

Last month, two bombs in Yala province wounded 74 people in one of the biggest attacks in the region, but there had been a lull in the bloodshed in the last couple of weeks.