Thailand’s army chief on Tuesday denied claims that security forces were to blame for a bloody attack on a mosque in the country’s troubled Muslim- majority south that killed 11 people.
The government ordered General Anupong Paojinda to fly to the volatile region a day after masked gunmen stormed the mosque in Narathiwat province and sprayed worshippers with bullets during evening prayers.
Villagers blamed Thai forces for the attack, one of the worst incidents in a five-year insurgency in the south, but Anupong said separatist militants were responsible for the “barbaric act.”
“After the attack militants made false claims against the authorities. They want to terrify villagers by creating a climate of fear,” he told reporters in Bangkok before leaving for Narathiwat.
“On the contrary, the authorities are building a better understanding with villagers and everything is being implemented under the law and in accordance with human rights,” he said.
About 1,000 sombre villagers gathered near the mosque in Cho-ai-rong district today to see the scene of the attack and attend a religious ceremony for the dead, witnesses said.
Locals collected the bodies of eight of the dead, including the local imam, this morning and took them to makeshift tents near the mosque to clean them for burial.