Five police killed in attack in south of Thailand

BANGKOK Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:45am EDT

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Suspected Muslim insurgents killed five policemen in Thailand's deep south on Wednesday in one of the most serious attacks since talks between a major Muslim rebel group and the government to end nearly a decade of conflict stalled.

"A special investigative unit was on duty when rebels opened fire on their car ... Everyone on the team died," a police official in the area told Reuters.

It was not clear what the team was investigating at the time of the attack in Pattani province.

"This appears to be an attack by local Muslim rebels to stir unrest," said another officer, Thanongsak Wansupha, deputy commander of Pattani police.

Thailand is predominantly Buddhist. Opposition to central government rule in the Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat has existed for decades, resurfacing violently in 2004.

Since then, more than 5,200 people have been killed in the southern provinces.

The government entered a peace process with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) rebel group this year.

But bloodshed during a ceasefire for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan did little to bolster confidence in the talks which have stalled in recent weeks.

The government said it is reviewing demands submitted in writing by the BRN and the talks would resume next month.

Wednesday's attack follows an explosion at a school in Yala province the previous day that killed two soldiers and wounded a child. The rebels see schools as symbols of central-government rule.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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