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Terrorism & Security

Southern Thailand hotel bombing spurs security warnings

Thai police target Muslim separatists in the recent spike in the long-simmmering violent conflict.

By / March 18, 2008

Recent attacks in Thailand's restless Muslim-dominated south have rattled Thailand's new government, which called an emergency meeting March 21 with security chiefs. Two people died in a blast Saturday outside a luxury hotel in Pattani Province that is popular with Thai government officials, visiting foreign diplomats, and reporters. A separate attack Saturday was apparently thwarted when a car bomb exploded prematurely, killing the driver.

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They are the most recent events in one of Southeast Asia's most lethal conflicts, and political analysts say the Thai government must sharpen its response to both the security threat and the longstanding grievances of Muslims in the predominantly Buddhist nation. A separatist insurgency in the south has claimed more than 2,900 lives since January 2004. Analysts say the violence has fallen, however, from its peak in 2007. Thailand annexed the area bordering Malaysia more than a century ago, and there have been periodic rebellions against its rule.

On Tuesday, unknown attackers threw a grenade into a mosque in Yala city just after morning prayers, injuring two caretakers, reports the Associated Press. Police blamed the attack on insurgents seeking to foment Muslim anger in the south, but said the grenade, which rolled off the roof and into the mosque entrance, wasn't intended to cause mass casualties.

Bangkok's Nation newspaper said security forces shot dead a suspected insurgent and injured another during a dawn raid Tuesday on a village in Narathiwat. Three suspects fled from a house and exchanged fire with a joint police-military task force sent to arrest a suspect accused of carrying out bomb attacks.

The fallout from Saturday night's powerful hotel car bombing has reverberated in Bangkok, reports Agence France-Presse. Thailand Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung admitted Tuesday that he "had no idea" how to solve the conflict. He said the conflict stems from Muslim grievances over discrimination.

The US State Department advised citizens Tuesday to postpone trips to the south, as recent violence has shifted to public places where tourists may be at risk, the Associated Press reports.


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