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Gunmen attacked a mosque in southern Thailand on Monday, leaving 12 people – including the local imam – dead. The attack comes amid a surge in violence in the country's southern provinces, where more than 3,700 people have died during a five-year-long insurgency.
Narathiwat, Pattani, and Yala Provinces, where violence has spiked in the past week, are the only Muslim-majority provinces in predominantly Buddhist Thailand. The country's Muslim population has long complained of discrimination in employment, development, and educational opportunities.
The southern provinces are currently under emergency rule, which the Thai government extended for three months in April this year despite an earlier promises to cancel the imposition.
The mosque attack occurred hours after Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva met his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, to discuss the southern insurgency and announce cooperative measures aimed at tackling the region's problems.
According to The Times of London, 12 worshippers were killed and 11 wounded when gunmen stormed a mosque in the Cho-airong district during evening prayers on Monday. It was one of the worst incidents in the five-year insurgency in Narathiwat, the paper reports.
Security officials said the attack was an attempt to create conflict between Muslims and Buddhists, reports Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
According to Al Jazeera, it is still unclear who the attackers were. The Thai government blames Muslim insurgents for violence in the south. But local villagers do not believe that the insurgents would attack a mosque and are blaming the government's security forces for the attack.
Thai Army chief Anupong Paochinda arrived in Narathiwat on Tuesday morning and was considering measures to boost security in the region, reports MCOT, a Thai news agency.
The mosque followed on the heels of a meeting between the Thai and Malay prime ministers, during which they discussed ways to address the southern insurgency, reports the Bangkok Post.