- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 12, 2018

HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) - Thai police said suspected Muslim insurgents ambushed a unit of patrolling army rangers in southern Thailand, killing two and wounding four, in the region’s latest violence.

Six army rangers were patrolling a street in Pattani province on three separate motorcycles Tuesday night when they were attacked by an unknown number of gunmen, said police Lt. Col. Sarawut Nucharong, deputy investigator of a local police station in Pattani. The attackers opened fire at the patrolling unit, leading to a firefight that left two army rangers dead and four wounded, Sarawut said.

Authorities suspect that the attack was carried out by the region’s Muslim separatists. Around 100 police and military officers surrounded the area where the ambush took place.

Predominantly Buddhist Thailand’s three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat have been plagued by a Muslim separatist insurgency that has claimed the lives of almost 7,000 people since the insurgency flared in 2004, according to the research group Deep South Watch, which monitors the region.

Separately, in Narathiwat province on Saturday, an unknown number of gunmen attacked residents in a house located near a guard post and killed two people and wounded two others, said police Lt. Col. Atipong Promnu.

The insurgents in southern Thailand are loyal to several groups whose main goals appear to be some form of political autonomy.

A large military presence in the region, supported by paramilitary light infantry forces referred to as rangers, has failed to quell the violence, which usually involves bombings and hit-and-run shootings, but occasionally includes coordinated attacks, usually aimed more at causing property damage than deaths.

Thailand’s government has been holding peace talks with a coalition of southern insurgent groups with which it has reached an agreement in principle to establish safe zones for the protection of civilians, but it is unclear if every insurgent group will honor it.

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