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Thailand Warns of Further Violence in Muslim-Dominated Provinces - 2004-04-29


Security in southern Thailand remains extremely tight a day after deadly clashes between government soldiers and militants killed at least 107 people. Human rights groups are demanding an investigation into Thailand's worst violence in recent years.

Thai Army troops fanned around mostly-Muslim southern Thailand, as officials warned of further attacks.

Wednesday's pre-dawn raids on security posts were carried out by mostly young men wielding machetes. Police and soldiers - working on advanced intelligence - thwarted the attackers in a massively bloody exercise.

Heavy fighting also destroyed a mosque in Pattani -- where government soldiers cornered some 30 militants.

Residents are shocked, angry and worried about their security. Umar bin Yussof, of the Pattani Islamic Council, says killing in a mosque is really bad. Nisen Nilae is the caretaker of the mosque. He says God has punished the bad guys. He hopes peace and prosperity will now return to Pattani.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra blamed the attacks on bandits trying to steal weapons. But others suspect Muslim militants. The regional terror group, Jemaah Islamiyah, is believed to have been operating in southern Thailand.

In Bangkok, human rights groups condemned the incident.

"We urge the government to fully investigate what happened and explain why there has been so high casualty," says Gothom Arya, secretary general of Forum Asia - a regional human rights group.

The recent spate of violence in the south began in January - prompting the government to declare martial law and residents to complain of heavy handed tactics against Muslims in the predominantly Buddhist nation.

Thursday, neighboring Malaysia expressed concern over the events and heightened security along the border. Some countries, including Malaysia, Britain and the United States have advised citizens against travel to the area.

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