16 die in attack on Thai marine base
- Published: 13/02/2013 at 10:56 AM
- Online news:
Scores of heavily armed gunmen stormed a military base in the southern border province of Narathiwat on Wednesday morning, an army spokesman said, in a major assault that left at least 16 militants dead.
The body of a militant wearing a bullet-proof vest lies at the edge of the Marine base. (Photo Courtesy of the Royal Thai Army)
"About 80 fully armed militants stormed the base, where there were 60 marines," said Col Pramote Promin, spokesman for the 4th Region Forward Command of the Internal Security Operations Command.
He said the attack, one of the most ambitious in several years of violence in Thailand's deep South, had resulted in the deaths of at least 16 assailants.
No Marines were killed, but there were reported to be some wounded.
The attack was launched early in the morning on a base in Bacho district of Narathiwat.
A 24-hour curfew was declared in the immediate region after the attack, until 6am Thursday. Fourth Army commander Udomchai Thammasarotrat said it covers four tambons in Narathiwat and two tambons in Pattani, all within a five-kilometre radius of the base.
There was confusion over the number of attackers dead. An army spokesmen said 17 militants were killed, but the 4th Army chief said the number was 16 - with more bodies likely to be found in a sweep of the base perimeter.
"We learned of the attack in advance from militants who defected," Col Pramote told Thai television.
"We were able to secure the camp. All of our forces are safe," he said.
He added that Maroso Jantarawadeea, a key local leader of the fighters, who wore bullet-proof vests during the attack, was among the dead.
Authorities had offered two million baht bounty for the capture of Maroso, who was involved in several murders in the far South, including a recent killing of a school teacher.
Two other insurgent leaders were also killed in the shooting.
The attackers reportedly were armed with AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles. Officials seized a total of 18 insurgent firearms from the perimeter area after the attack.
Lt Gen Udomchai said the retreating militants were beileved to be still in the areas under curfew in Narathiwat and Pattani.
The Wednesday attack followed an ambush by car bomb which killed five soldiers on Sunday.
The bomb, which also wounded a sixth soldier and two rubber tappers working nearby, was detonated as the troops passed by in their patrol vehicle in a village in Yala.
According to Deep South Watch, which monitors the southern violence, more than 5,000 people have been killed and over 9,000 injured in more than 11,000 incidents, or about 3.5 a day, in the three southernmost provinces and the four districts of Songkhla since the violence erupted afresh in January 2004.
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