Thai marines kill 16 militants who attacked base

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February 13, 2013 03:03 AM EST

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:EN-GB"><span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">NARATHIWAT, Thailand — Marines fending off a major militant assault on
their base in Thailand's violent south killed 16 insurgents in an overnight
shootout, authorities said Wednesday. It was the deadliest toll the Muslim
guerrillas suffered since more than 100 died in a single day nearly a decade
ago.



<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">About 30 militants wearing military-style uniforms attacked the marine
corps base in Bacho district in Narathiwat province just after midnight
Wednesday, said Capt. Somkiat Ponprayun, the provincial marine corps special
task force chief.


<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">The shootout ended with 16 militants killed and the rest fleeing,
Somkiat said. The death toll was reduced from the initial figure of 19 given
out earlier Wednesday by regional army spokesman Col. Pramote Promin.

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">He said the insurgents – most of them armed and wearing flak jackets –
opened fire at the base and were counterattacked by the security forces.
Authorities confiscated 13 rifles, 3 pistols and a pickup truck at the scene.

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">Somkiat said the marines who fended off the attack suffered no casualties,
as they had been tipped-off by the locals and prepared for the assault.


<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">"There have been frequent attacks this month, so every unit has
been on the lookout. Officers have been assigned on a night watch at every
base," Somkiat told reporters. "This week, residents in Bacho
district have also informed the soldiers of small armed movement here and
there, which put us on extra alert."

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">Fighting in Thailand's three southernmost provinces has occurred on a
near daily basis since the insurgency flared anew in 2004, and more than 5,000
people have been killed. Security forces, as well as teachers, have been
targeted by insurgents because they are seen as representatives of the
government.

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">Muslims in the deep south, a Muslim-majority region in the Buddhist-dominated
country that was once independent, have long complained of discrimination by
the central government in Bangkok, and the insurgents are thought to be
fighting for autonomy. But the insurgency itself remains murky, with militants
making no public pronouncements on their goals.

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">The losses Wednesday were the most since guerrillas launched
simultaneous attacks on police stations and checkpoints in the three provinces
in April 2004, triggering clashes in which more than 100 militants were killed,
32 of them at the Kreu-Sae mosque in Pattani where they were holed up.

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">The Thai government has attempted to gain support from local residents
and separatist sympathizers in solving the insurgency issues throughout the
past decade, but progress has been slow. However, experts said the militant's
targeting of soft targets such teachers and civilians might have made the
locals turn to the authorities.

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">"Some sympathizers are now fed up with the widespread, unspecific
killings from the militants because they, too, are affected by the
losses," said Jaran Maluleem, a Muslim expert and political scientist at
Thammasat University in Bangkok. "Still, the government must be able to
explain to the public why this mass killing of insurgents is justified."

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">Cmdr. Thammanoon Wanna, who oversees the marine corps base, said the
troops had braced for Wednesday's assault after authorities discovered a sketch
that mapped out the insurgents' plans on a militant who was shot dead in recent
days.


<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">Regional army commander Lt. Gen. Udomchai Thammasaroraj said in an
interview on ThaiPBS channel that the army has declared a curfew for the area
within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of the base for Wednesday night into Thursday.
Security forces have conducted searches to find the rest of the fleeing militants,
some of whom are believed to have been wounded.



<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">"The insurgents were uplifted because of a surge in their
successful attacks in recent weeks, so this is a significant loss on their
side," said Sunai Phasuk, a Bangkok-based researcher for Human Rights Watch.
"From now, authorities will certainly have to be very concerned about
their retaliation."


<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">Narathiwat is located 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of Bangkok.

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">On Sunday, suspected militants killed five soldiers and wounded five
others in two attacks that included a car bomb blast in Yala province that was
detonated as a truck carrying six soldiers passed. The militants then opened
fire on the soldiers, killing five of them, and took away the dead soldiers'
rifles.

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">Officials from security agencies are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss
safety measures for the southernmost provinces.

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
"Times New Roman","serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-language:
EN-GB">_