Thai forces kill wanted rebel in shoot-out: army
Thai security forces killed five suspected insurgents including a most-wanted leader during a 15-minute shoot-out in a village in the Muslim-majority deep south, the army said on Friday.
Friday 20 April 2012, 12:11PM
About 40 soldiers, paramilitary rangers and police sealed off the village in Yala province on Thursday after a tip-off that more than a dozen suspected militants were hiding there.
After an exchange of gunfire, the bodies of five men were found including Sakueri Japakiya, 38, who was believed to be a key figure within the Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK) insurgency group, the military said.
"He was an RKK leader with seven outstanding arrest warrants. He led the movement in Yala province and his team specialised in ambushes," army spokesman Colonel Pramote Promin told AFP by telephone.
"Local religious leaders, forensic police and civilian officials are examining the scene of the clash for more evidence."
Army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha said this month that the country was fighting against more than 3,000 Muslim militants waging a shadowy insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives since the violence flared in 2004.
A series of bomb blasts in two southern cities at the end of March killed 15 people and wounded hundreds more in the deadliest attacks in the region in recent years.
The insurgents are not thought to be part of a global jihad movement but are instead rebelling against a long history of perceived discrimination against ethnic-Malay Muslims by successive Thai governments.
The near-daily bomb or gun attacks are indiscriminate, targeting both soldiers and civilians, Buddhists and Muslims.
A state of emergency is in force in the worst-affected parts of the region, which rights campaigners say in effect gives the tens of thousands of military troops based in the area legal immunity and fuels rights abuses.