3 soldiers killed in Thailand’s violent south

HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) — Three soldiers were killed and one was wounded in an attack Thursday by gunmen in Thailand’s insurgency-plagued south, police said.

About seven to eight suspected Muslim insurgents in a pickup truck opened fire on the four soldiers, who were helping villagers repair their houses near a mosque in Yarang district in Pattani province, Police Col. Wasant Phuangnoi said.

He said the officers exchanged gunfire with the militants, who later took away three M16 rifles from the soldiers and fled the scene.

The incident occurred one day after five plainclothes policemen were killed in a similar attack in another district in Pattani province.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in Thailand’s three Muslim-dominated southernmost provinces since an Islamic insurgency erupted in 2004.

The regular attacks are seen as a hindrance to the Thai government’s attempt to revive peace talks with the Muslim militants after both sides signed a breakthrough deal in February, agreeing to hold dialogue to ease nearly a decade of violence in the region

The insurgents said last month they would suspend the talks with the Thai government because authorities had not responded to their demands.

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