Muslim rebel ambushes kill 3,wound 5 in Thai south

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YAIA, Thailand, Sep 28 (Reuters) - Separatist rebels today ambushed patrolling security forces with guns and bombs in Thailand's rebellious far south killing three and wounding five in two separate attacks, police said.

At least five militants stopped an army truck with fallen trees on a village road in Pattani, one of three provinces where more than 2,500 people have been killed in the three-year insurgency, and shot dead all three soldiers aboard, police said.

Militants also ambushed a motorcade of security force trucks escorting teachers to school, wounding two policemen and three teachers, including a pregnant woman, police said.

Security personnel along with Buddhist monks and government schoolteachers are prime targets for militants in a separatist insurgency which re-emerged in January 2004 in the region, a former Muslim sultanate annexed by Thailand about a century ago.

Since July, security forces have launched almost daily raids on suspected insurgent hideouts in villages and towns and have detained dozens without charge.

Human rights groups are critical, saying detainees are exposed to potential abuses by the army, which is operating under martial law that grants soldiers immunity from prosecution.

REUTERS SG PM1350

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