14 killed in serial blasts in Thailand

Nine people were killed and 100 others wounded in triple blasts in southern city of Yala yesterday.

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14 killed in serial blasts in Thailand


At least 14 people were killed and nearly 500 others wounded in a series of blasts in Thailand's insurgency-hit southern city of Yala, in the most deadly co-ordinated attacks in years in the country.

Nine people were killed and 100 others wounded in triple blasts in southern city of Yala yesterday, the Bangkok Post reported today.

In another explosion that caused a fire at Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel and shopping mall in Songkhla's Hat Yai district five people were killed and more than 350 injured yesterday.

The authorities confirmed that the bombs were made by insurgents but could not confirm if the incident in Hat Yai was linked to terrorism, the paper said.

But Hat Yai mayor Prai Pattano, who had earlier ruled out a terror attack, changed his mind after inspecting the scene, saying he believed it was terrorism, it said.

The business area of Yala's Muang district was rocked by two bombs just before noon yesterday. The explosives, weighing 60-70kg, were stored in two 15kg gas cylinders and put in an Isuzu pickup truck.

The parts of damaged gas cylinders and electronic circuits and power cables were recovered from the blast site.

As authorities rushed to the scene, another bomb exploded in front of a convenience store about 20m away. The bomb was planted in a Toyota pickup truck.

Shophouses, parked cars and motorcycles near the blast sites caught fire. The two pickup trucks used in the attacks and the suspects were captured on surveillance cameras.

In less than one hour, a major fire engulfed Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel, which houses a hotel and shopping complex, following an explosion from the basement car park. Four men and one woman were found dead. Three of the bodies were recovered from the basement.

Meanwhile, security at all airports across Thailand has been stepped up following the blasts.

Airports of Thailand chief Anirut Thanomkulbutr today said Level 3 security was in force at Hat Yai airport. He said no airlines had cancelled flights to Hat Yai after the blasts.

Yala district police chief Col Kritsada Kaewchandee said the second blast caused majority of casualties.

"This is the worst attack in the past few years," said Pramote Promin, a spokesman of a regional security agency.

"The suspected insurgents were targeting people's lives. They (chose) a bustling commercial area, so they wanted to harm people," he said.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in Thailand's three southern provinces - Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala -since an Islamist insurgency began in January 2004.

Thai authorities have imposed a state of emergency since 2005 that gives security forces special powers to arrest and detain suspects in the three provinces. But the decree and a massive security presence have failed to curb the violence and little is known about the militants or their goals.

The insurgents have made no public announcements but are thought to be fighting for an independent Muslim state.

The area used to be an Islamic sultanate until it was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century.

Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani are the only Muslim-dominated provinces in the predominantly Buddhist country. Muslims in the area have long complained of discrimination by the central government.

Somchart, chairman of the Songkhla Tourism Business Council and president of the Hat Yai-Songkhla Hoteliers Association, said following the blast about 60 per cent of the city's hotel rooms which had been fully booked were cancelled.

The damage to tourism-related businesses was likely to be around 1 billion baht, he said.

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