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Thai Muslims Mourn Mosque Siege Victims - 2004-04-30

Two days after clashes in southern Thailand killed more than 100 people, grieving families continue to wonder who was behind the incidents, especially a bloody siege at a 400-year-old mosque in Pattani. VOA's Scott Bobb visited the family of three young men who were among the 32 people killed in the siege and has this report from their home in Yala province, some 50 kilometers west of Pattani.

It is late morning and the family of Abdulaha Dalomae is receiving visitors before Friday prayers. The group sits on mats in the two-room wooden house, one of several in the village called Yamaelaga, some 10 kilometers outside Yala town.

The visitors are comforting the family for the loss of their 19 year-old son, Nu, who died two days before in the siege of Krue Se mosque in Pattani, 60 kilometers away.

Mr. Abdulaha says he came home Wednesday from his work tapping rubber trees and saw the firefight on television. Worried because Nu had not come home the night before, a brother went to the scene and called later to tell him his son was dead.

Mr. Abdulaha, a thin, soft-spoken man, says his son told him the day before he was going out for Dawa. Dawa is a local term for urging people to go to the mosque, a form of religious devotion that is highly respected.

Mr. Abdulaha says Nu often went to perform dawa with two cousins, Marsawlae and Rusalee Salae. The cousins, aged 20 and 21 years, died with Nu.

The father says he cannot understand how this disaster has anything to do with dawa, which is about doing good, not about evil or separatism.

The people of southern Thailand are mostly ethnic Malay Muslims who for decades have chafed under the central government of predominantly Buddhist Thailand.

A separatist movement broke out in the 1970s but dissipated after a general amnesty in the mid-1980s.

But sporadic violence, beginning in January and culminating with Wednesday's carnage, is raising fears that unknown groups are trying to foment a religious and ethnic uprising in the south.

Up the road at the village mosque, the religious teacher, Mahamat Tukajee, is preparing for Friday prayers. Imam Mahamat, a wiry man with a trimmed beard, says he knew the three men well.

Imam Mahamat says the young men were very devout. They came to pray five times a day and sometimes stayed all night reading the Koran.

He says he does not know how the three cousins ended up in the Krue Se mosque on Wednesday.

The call to prayer rings out and Imam Mahamat gets up to prepare for the service, as the villagers gather to pray.

Behind the mosque is a grassy cemetery with a few small headstones. Fresh earth is drying on three new graves, lying side by side. They are the final resting place for Nu Dalomae and his cousins.