Bomb kills seven Thai soldiers


Bangkok : Suspected separatists Friday killed at least seven soldiers in an ambush in Yala province, part of Thailand's violence-wracked majority Muslim south, where more than 2,100 people have died since January 2004, police said.

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In one of the bloodiest attacks to date, insurgents detonated a roadside bomb early Friday as a patrol of 10 soldiers neared Buesue village in Yala, 780 km south of Bangkok, then opened fire on the troops, leaving at least seven dead, The Nation online news service reported.

Police said at least one other soldier was severely injured.

The attack was the highlight of an already deadly week for the people of Thailand's three majority-Muslim southernmost provinces – Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.

Other victims this week included two women teachers who were shot dead in their school library in front of 100 students. A 60-year-old Islamic schoolteacher and a 13-year-old boy also were murdered.

With Friday's death toll of seven soldiers, altogether 15 people have been killed in the three-province region this week.

The three provinces comprised an independent Islamic sultanate known as Pattani for hundreds of years before being conquered by Bangkok in 1786. The border provinces came under direct rule of the Thai bureaucracy in 1902.

A separatist struggle took off in the 1950s, fuelled by government efforts to suppress the local culture and religion in the region.