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Thailand Arrests Suspected Attackers

Thailand has charged several people in connection with a series of deadly attacks earlier this week in southern Thailand. Police in Thailand arrested two Islamic leaders and two members of a Muslim separatist group suspected of involvement in this week's violence in southern Thailand.

Six people - four soldiers and two police officers - were killed this week during attacks on a military armory and several police stations. Nearly 20 schools were set on fire.

Some fear international Islamic terror organizations are involved, while others blame domestic groups.

Thailand's population is mostly Buddhist, but the south is home to nearly six million Muslims.

Interior Minister Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, who oversees police and security, says a local group, called the Bersatu, might be responsible. The Bersatu is an umbrella group for several separatist organizations in the south.

Other security officials say the attackers may be connected to the Southeast Asian terrorist network, Jemaah Islamiyah. That group was responsible for the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali and is linked to the al-Qaida network.

But on Friday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Sihasak Puangketkeow said a domestic group carried out the attacks.

"We don't believe that those who were involved in the incident … have any links with terrorist groups outside the country," he said. During the 1970s and 1980s, waves of Muslim separatist insurgencies swept through primarily Buddhist Thailand. Through arrests, amnesties and cross-border deals with Malaysia, the government put an end to most of the upheaval.

With the renewed violence, Thai newspaper editorials on Friday called for the re-introduction of a joint police, military and civilian security command unit, which was dismantled by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The editor of The Nation newspaper, Thepchai Yong, says the security command is necessary for accurate information on turmoil in the south.

"The government has been in the dark all along, since they dismantled the joint police, civilian, and military unit," he said. "And there has always been conflicting intelligence reports as to what really goes on in the south."

Mr. Thepchai also called on the government not to overreact. He says a heavy-handed crackdown may lead to further alienation of the Muslim population.