Four Buddhists killed in Thai Muslim south ambush

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YALA, Thailand, Nov 21 (Reuters) Suspected Islamic rebels killed four Buddhist state officials today in a roadside gun attack in Thailand's rebellious Muslim south, police said.

Four militants on two motorcycles attacked the officials in their car with a pistol and an M-16 rifle. One man and two women were killed instantly in a village in Pattani, one of the southern provinces caught up in a separatist insurgency.

Another woman official died in hospital, police said.

After the shooting, the militants hid a small bomb in a car and detonated it after cameramen and photographers finished filming, a Thai television reporter told Reuters by telephone.

''Ten minutes after I finished filming, a bomb went off in the car and I was just about 10 metres away,'' said Channel 7 reporter Khemin Guagoon.

More than 2,600 people have been killed in nearly four years of insurgency. Attacks continued in November, after a surge in October which followed a relative lull during the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan.

In the nearby city of Yala, a small bomb exploded yesterday in a restaurant frequented by Buddhists, wounding six people, police said.

One of the six had to have his right leg amputated, hospital staff said.

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

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

REUTERS RJ RK1645

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