Local leader gunned down in post-TAO poll attack

NARATHIWAT : The head of the Bang Po Tambon Administration Organisation (TAO) was shot dead in Narathiwat's Muang district yesterday evening as he returned home from a TAO election.

The attack occurred as Abdunkode Mahama, 45, was driving home in his car, police said.

He was approached by a pickup truck from which a gunman sprayed him with bullets from an M16 assault rifle, police said.

Abudunkode died later in hospital.

The attack probably resulted from a local political conflict, police said.

Meanwhile, defence volunteer Ahamatole Dolo, 33, was ambushed by members of an insurgent group while riding a motorcycle home from his job at a rubber plantation in Pattani's Sai Buri district, police said.

Cartridges from an assault rifle and a 9mm pistol were found on a village road near Ban Baruere, police said.

Police suspect Ahamatole was targetted by a militant group because he worked as an informant for authorities.

In another development, 332 schools in Pattani will today resume classes after a six-day closure.

The reopening comes amid bolstered security for teachers, according to the Confederation of Teachers of Southern Border Provinces. The widespread closure was carried out by the confederation to force authorities to come up with better security strategies for teachers, who are among the prime targets of insurgents.

On Nov 22 insurgents killed Ban Tha Kam Sam school director Nanthana Kaewchan, 51, in Pattani's Nong Chik district. The confederation called the killing the final straw.

"The temporary closure was done in the hope that officers will protect the lives of our fellow teachers," said confederation chairman Bunsom Thongsiphrai.

"If the situation [continues] the way it is, teachers' morale will plunge further."

The confederation agreed to reopen the schools after talks with security officers, the deputy prime minister and Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana.

The confederation was told their request for increases in compensation for families of slain teachers, as well as increased monthly risk allowances for teachers working in the deep South would be considered. "The minister has promised to handle the issues as soon as possible," Mr Bunsom said.

Many teachers returned to their schools yesterday to prepare their teaching materials and classrooms ahead of lessons.

However, those at Ban Maruat school in Pattani's Panare district had to find temporary locations to hold class after the two-storey school building was torched by arsonists on Thursday.

School director Muhammat Jelo said teachers agreed to resume lessons by using the library and the prayer room as temporary classrooms.

"We don't want students to lose the chance to study any further," he said.

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