Bangkok – In the first major attack inThailand’s restive south in recent months, suspected Islamic insurgents set off two bombs which derailed a security forces train and then ambushed a patrol forcenear a train station on March 27. All 22 police and railway staff were wounded in the attacks.
Two 20-kg bombs exploded around, 30km from the Sungai Padi train station in Narathiwat province as a maintenance train car was travelling from Sungai Kolok to Tanyong near the Malaysian border. A third bomb exploded outside a bank in the same district at almost the same time but no one was injured.
After the blasts, groups of gunmen hidden near the railway tracks opened fire on the train. Soldiers and police returned fire and the shootout lasted for an hour before the attackers managed to escape.
A manhunt, involving both military and police personnel, has been launched for the railtrack bombers. An intelligence source told the Bangkok Post that some of the suspects donned the traditional hijab, a long robe with veil worn by orthodox Muslim women, to evade the authorities.
The source said militants in hijab were hard to spot but could approach security forces closely and then open fire. More women police would now be deployed to search women suspects.
The source added that reports of women insurgents infiltrating the country could be true.
Apolice officer said: “The bombs were targeting government officers at it was part of the unrest.”
Security has been beefed up at six major railway stations in the deep South – Hat Yai, Khok Pho, Yala, Tanyongmat, Sungai Padi and Sungai Kolok – for fear of more attacks by insurgents, said a source from the Fourth Army Region command.
Railway officials havecalled on soldiers to take over from police in guarding rail maintenance trains in the region, which has been grappling with an Islamic insurgency since January last year. More than 700 people have died in the violence.
* Railway bombs, ambush, hurt 22 (Bangkok Post, March 28)
* 22 injured in train ambush (The Nation, March 28)