Insurgents who torched Yala bus 'own up' to crime

Insurgents who torched Yala bus 'own up' to crime

Three people detained in connection with the torching of a passenger bus in Yala on Dec 17 have confessed to carrying out the attack on the orders of two insurgents leading a group in the province, a security source said Monday.

The two insurgents are Abdulloh Tapohto and Ahama Luebaesa, both of whom remain at large in this southern border area, the source added.

Four suspects were initially detained a few days after the incident, which resulted in no casualties or major injuries as the passengers were ordered off the inter-provincial bus before it was set ablaze.

When the bus stopped, 10-15 armed men dressed like soldiers emerged from roadside bushes and ordered everybody off the vehicle. They then doused the vehicle with petrol and set it alight before leaving the scene. They also felled a tree and spread spikes on the road.

Another 20 suspects were apprehended in a series of raids carried out late last week, the source said.

The raids were carried out by police, military rangers and local administrative officials in Bannang Sata district.

The raids and subsequent detentions were kept under wraps so as not to tip off and scare away other potential suspects, the source said.

Several suspects told investigators the attack was aimed at undermining public confidence in the government's economic zone policy which is being implemented in the southern border provinces, said Pol Lt Gen Ronnasil Phusara, chief of Provincial Police Region 9.

That information led to security in the strife-torn areas being stepped up, particularly in urban areas located within the economic zones, he said.

A warning by security agencies that insurgents may be planning attacks from last Saturday until tomorrow was also based on the information extracted from some of those detained, he said.

Meanwhile, one of the two M16 rifles seized in Si Sakhon district of Narathiwat following a Dec 26 shooting attack there was stolen from the Pi Leng military camp in Cho Airong district, also in Narathiwat, in January 2004, the special task force of the 49th Ranger Battalion said yesterday.

That arms theft is widely seen as the trigger point for the resurgence in southern violence which has challenged successive governments as they try to bring the unrest in the troubled region under control.

One ranger was killed and three wounded in the attack carried out just after Christmas Day.

The other M16 must be examined further to determine where it came from because the serial number has been erased, said Col Charun Chaturong, chief of the special task force.

The same raids that netted the two rifles also yielded 16 bullets compatible with them and 19 other bullets, a number of electric wires, nails and a 15kg cooking gas cylinder, said Col Charun.

These materials had already been assembled into a bomb for use in a planned attack, he said.

Pol Col Suthon Sukwiset, chief of Si Sakhon district police station, said the police have collected DNA samples from the seized weapons and are trying to match them with suspects in the police database.

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