Thai border police killed by suspected insurgents in south

HAT YAI, Thailand — Two Border Patrol Police officers in southern Thailand were killed Friday while praying in a mosque in the latest violence believed linked to a Muslim separatist insurgency, police said.

Police Col. Pariwat Kwanmanij, the chief of Than To police station in Yala province, said four attackers slipped into the mosque and shot the officers at point-blank range in the head.

Pariwat said the attackers, who fled after the shooting, were suspected of being part of an insurgency that flared in 2004 and has claimed about 7,000 lives in predominantly Buddhist Thailand's three southernmost provinces, which have Muslim majorities.

Part of the insurgents' strategy has been to seek to scare Buddhists into leaving the area, but many Muslims cooperating with the authorities have also been targeted.

In January, gunmen presumed to be Muslim insurgents stormed a Buddhist temple in neighboring Narathiwat province, killing two monks and wounding two others. Also in January, an imam — a Muslim community leader — in the region was gunned down.

There has been an upsurge of violence since late last year attributed to a hardcore separatist faction seeking to derail peace talks between the government and other factions.

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