BANGKOK (Reuters) - More than 70 people were killed on Wednesday in dawn clashes between black-clad young men and security forces in Thailand's restive Muslim south when armed gangs raided police posts in a sharp escalation of four months of violence.
"Seventy four of the culprits were killed and four were wounded," Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters.
Two soldiers and two policemen also died after gangs of young men dressed in black and wielding guns, swords and machetes launched the early morning raids on security posts across the troubled region, home to a low-key separatist rebellion in the 1970s and 1980s. Thailand's three southernmost provinces have been hit by a wave of shootings, bombings and arson attacks that had claimed at least 60 lives since a January 4 raid on an army barracks that left four soldiers dead.
"They attacked five of our police booths in Yala province this morning and we killed 22 of them," provincial police chief Colonel Prinya Kwanyuen told Reuters.
The largely Muslim province of Yala is 780 miles south of the capital, Bangkok.
An Interior Ministry official said the attackers were killed in raids across the three southern provinces, including in Pattani province, where a battle was still raging between troops and gunmen holed up in a mosque.
More Muslim violence, in Thailand no less. I guess they didn't get the word in Thailand that Islam is a "religion of peace".