Feb. 13 - Thai authorities say soldiers killed at least 17 Muslim insurgents, fending off an overnight attack on a military base in the restive south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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(ROUGH CUT ONLY - NO REPORTER NARRATION)
Thai soldiers killed at least 17 Muslim insurgents who attacked a military base in a pre-dawn raid in the country's turbulent south, authorities said on Wednesday (February 13).
The attack on a marine base in Bacho was the deadliest violence since the long-simmering conflict flared nine years ago.
The gun battle between soldiers and about 60 insurgents in Narathiwat on the Malaysian border is the latest in a series of attacks pushing Thailand's three southernmost provinces to a crisis point after years of bloodshed.
It illustrates the difficulty Buddhist-majority Thailand faces in preventing the low-intensity insurgency from turning into a much more dangerous conflict at a time when it is showcasing to investors a resurgent economy and buoyant stock market, Asia's best performer in 2012 with a 36 percent rise.
Although there is no indication of violence spreading beyond the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, just a few hours by car from some of Thailand's most popular tourist beaches, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra appears powerless to quell the almost daily gun fights and bomb attacks.
Authorities said 16 rifles and two pick-up trucks apparently belonging to the insurgents were seized.
It was the biggest death toll since security forces stormed the Krue Se mosque in southern Thailand in 2004, killing 32 Muslims in a raid that caused an intensification of the insurgency.