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Blasts in southern Thailand kill three

February 19, 2007|From the Associated Press

BANGKOK, THAILAND — At least 28 bombs exploded Sunday in apparently coordinated attacks in parts of southern Thailand shaken by a Muslim insurgency, killing three people and wounding more than 50, the military said.

The bombings targeted hotels, karaoke bars, power grids and commercial sites in the country's southernmost provinces, the only parts of predominantly Buddhist Thailand with Muslim majorities. Two public schools were torched.

Police said three Thais of Chinese descent were gunned down in Pattani province in what was believed to be the act of insurgents. The killings occurred as the country's Chinese community was celebrating the Lunar New Year on Sunday.

Violence in the south has been escalating in recent months despite a major policy shift by the military-imposed government, which is trying to replace an earlier, iron-fisted approach in dealing with the rebels with a campaign to quell the movement through aid and development.

More than 2,000 people have died in the Malay peninsula provinces since the insurgency erupted in 2004, fueled by accusations of decades of misrule by the central government. The insurgents have not announced their goals, but they are believed to be fighting for a separate state imbued with radical Islamic ideology.

In Sunday's attacks, two people were killed and 33 injured in Yala province, and one person died and 20 were wounded in a tourist town in Narathiwat province, said Col. Wichai Thongdaeng, a military spokesman.

"We believe that the attacks were planned to cause division, create fear among the people. They want to show that they are still capable" of carrying out attacks, he said, adding that the military had sent additional troops to the region.

A sizable number of Sunday's bombings were against karaoke parlors, which the Islamic rebels denounce as decadent.

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