Smugglers suspected in police deaths

PATTANI - Smugglers could be behind the deaths two Highway Police officers killed after a car chase in Pattani on Friday night, police said on Saturday.

Police said they were determining whether the incident was related to ongoing violence in the South or if it was carried out by contraband gangs.

Investigators suspect that the attack may have been carried out by smugglers active in the region, although they did not rule out the involvement of militants.

The Highway Police officers were known to have stopped many trucks loaded with contraband, which may have angered some smugglers into carrying out the attack, investigators said.

The two policemen and one villager were shot and killed by gunmen on the Pattani-Yala road in Sai Buri district at 9pm on Friday.

At the scene, investigators found a shot-up Highway Police car had swerved into a fish pond. Inside the car were the bodies of Pol Sen Sgt Maj Worawit Kaewsi-on, 43, Pol Sen Sgt Maj Pathompong Tosamart, 51, and Lijae Sulong, 63, a villager who volunteered as an assistant to the Highway Police. The car was pulled out from the pond and inspected for a possible explosive booby-trap.

A preliminary investigation indicated that the officers and the volunteer were on a patrol looking for smugglers. Suddenly, an unknown number of armed men in a pickup truck opened fire at them with assault rifles. Their car veered off the road into the pond.

The gunmen got off the pickup truck and finished their victims off at close range before fleeing.

A large number of spent M-16 and AK-47 bullet casings were recovered from the scene.

Related search: South, highway police

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Writer: Abdulloh Benjakat
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