Islamic militants behead Muslim village chief in south Thailand

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Bangkok, Dec 18 (UNI) Suspected Islamic militants decapitated a village chief and gunned down three other local Muslims today in Thailand's southern Yala province reeling under separatist violence for the past four years.

According to reports from Yala, 10 insurgents riding a pick up truck and armed with M16 and AK-47 rifles fired on the victims who were returning home in another pick up.

More than 2,500 people have been killed since early 2004 in insurgent violence in Thailand's Muslim-majority Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani provinces bordering Malaysia.

Reuters adds: ''Their bodies were left near a pick-up truck and the village headman was beheaded, with his head left on the road,'' police said.

A fifth man was shot in the arm but escaped, they said.

The identity of the gunmen was unknown, but police said they presumed they were members of a militant group called RKK -- Runda Kumpalan Kecil, which means Small Patrol Group in Malay.

In a separate incident, a bomb wounded two soldiers seriously as they stopped at a grocery store in another Yala town, police said.

The bomb, hidden in front of the store, was detonated by a remote control when the soldiers went in, police said.

Nobody claims responsibility for the almost daily gun and bomb attacks in the former sultanate annexed by Thailand a century ago.

The region is populated mostly by ethnic Malays who complain of being made to feel like second class citizens in overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand.


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