World News

Six rebels killed, trains halted in Thai south

YALA, Thailand (Reuters) - Security forces killed six suspected Muslim rebels in southern Thailand on Monday, where all rail services have been halted after a brutal weekend attack on a train, police said.

About 200 police and soldiers raided a jungle hideout used by Muslim separatist guerrillas in Yala, one of the four southernmost provinces where more than 3,000 people have been killed in a four-year insurgency, police said.

“It’s a major victory as we have eliminated some snipers,” Police Colonel Sompien Ekpanya told Reuters at the scene of the fighting.

Police said they had found a rifle with telescopic sights and a dozen mobile phones used for detonating bombs.

After a relative five month lull, the insurgents -- who have never identified themselves or their aims -- have stepped up operations this month, most notably with Saturday’s ambush of a moving train in which a policeman and three rail workers were killed.

Last week, a police officer was shot dead and five others were wounded in a nearby ambush. A helicopter flying in to attend to the victims suffered engine trouble and crashed, killing all 10 on board.

State Railways of Thailand suspended its services until security for staff and passengers was improved in the Malay-speaking Muslim region, a former sultanate annexed by predominantly Buddhist Bangkok a century ago.

“Staff morale has fallen to a new low,” southern rail manager Tanongsak Pongprasert told Reuters. “Services will resume only when we are assured of proper security measures.”