World Media

Gunmen kill 15 in southern Thailand's worst attack in years

A Muslim separatist armed campaign in southern Thailand has left about 7,000 people dead since 2004

At least 15 people were shot dead and four injured in an overnight assault when unknown gunmen launched a scathing armed attack on security deployment in southern Thailand, local media reported on Wednesday.

Gen. Phornsak Phulsawat said the gunmen sneaked up at night and fired on the vigilantes, killing 15 of them and wounding five others, at a raodside sentry post in a village in the capital district of Yala only meant to scare the Thais throughout the country with such appalling news of their fatal attack. Thailand's volunteer security forces in the south are raised from local villages and receive weapons training from the army but no salary.

"It (the attack) is a reminder that they are still here", he said.

The government imposed martial law in three Muslim-majority provinces in southern Thailand - Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala - following deadly violences in 2004. Heavy-handed crackdowns have fueled the discontent. Buddhist monks have also been attacked.

The main insurgency group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), denied responsibility for the Bangkok bombings, which wounded four people. Generally, they stage hit-and-run attacks, such as drive-by shootings and ambushes with roadside bombs. The incidents have been fewer in recent years, but the hits have become "more intense", said Don Pathan, an expert on the so-called Deep South. Tuesday's attack marked the largest coordinated effort "in a very long time", he added.

Numerous dead at the checkpoint were members of the Village Defence Volunteers, a community-watch type organization, who were believed to be giving information to the local police and military. According to officials, the security checkpoint was targeted by the attackers.