NARATHIWAT, Thailand (Reuters) - Four soldiers were killed and one was critically wounded when insurgents detonated a roadside bomb in Thailand’s Muslim south, police said on Thursday.
The attack took place late on Wednesday in Narathiwat, one of three mainly Muslim provinces bordering Malaysia, where a shadowy insurgency has claimed more than 5,000 lives since 2004, when a low-level separatist rebellion from the 1970s resurfaced.
The soldiers were travelling in two vehicles and had been providing security during a Buddhist festival. They were attacked moments after delivering the body of a Muslim villager to his family after he was shot dead by suspected rebels.
Three of the soldiers were killed instantly, a fourth died in hospital.
In a separate incident, a Muslim rubber farmer was shot dead and his wife seriously wounded early on Thursday when two unknown gunmen opened fire on them while they were working at their farm, police said.
The region, which is more than 1,100 km (680 miles) away from the capital, Bangkok, was part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate until annexed by predominantly Buddhist Thailand in 1909.
The government insists the military’s large-scale deployment in the rubber-rich region is vital to quell the rebellion, but many Muslims say their presence is exacerbating the conflict.
Reporting by Surapan Boonthanom; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Martin Petty and Robert Birsel