- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2007

1:23 p.m.

BANGKOK (AP) — Suspected Muslim insurgents opened fire on nine Buddhists who were riding in a commuter van in Thailand’s restive south today, killing eight of them execution-style, military and hospital officials said.

The attack prompted officials to step up security in the south, where a Muslim insurgency has claimed more than 2,000 lives since 2004.

Suspected insurgents bombed the van as it slowed at a curve in the road, which they also had blocked with a large tree trunk, said police Lt. Kitti Mankhong, a duty officer in the Yaha district of Yala province, where the attack occurred.

Armed with assault rifles, the attackers first shot at the driver and then opened the side door of the van and fired at each of the passengers, he said. The driver, who was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the face, survived the morning attack, as did a female passenger. She was hospitalized in critical condition.

“Everyone was shot in the head at close range, execution-style,” Lt. Kitti said.

The attack came as authorities beefed up security for the anniversary of the founding of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), or National Revolution Front separatist group. Police had warned that insurgents might try to mark the anniversary with violence.

The BRN was formed in 1963, partly in opposition to the Thai government’s policy at the time of forcing southern Muslims to assimilate into predominantly Buddhist Thai society. The government later changed the policy.

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