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Frightened School Children Huddled in Classroom as Soldiers Fight Islamic Militants in Southern Thailand

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NARATHIWAT – Frightened children huddled on the classroom floor amid the sound of gunfire and a hovering helicopter as security forces and militants clashed in a rubber plantation near their school in southern Thailand on Friday morning.

One militant was killed. Four others escaped but left trails of blood behind them.

In Sungai Padi district, five members of a security team patrolling a road along a railway track were wounded by the second of two bombs detonated by ambushers.

The first bomb was detonated about 7.30am when a soldier and five paramilitary rangers based at Toh Deng train station were patrolling a road parallel to the track in tambon Toh Deng of Sungai Padi district.

A steel box stuffed with explosives believed to weigh about 10 kilograms had been hidden in a pipe running beneath the road and was detonated remotely.

The patrol members were uninjured and opened fire into roadside bushes they believed were concealing the attackers.

As they tried to move away from the scene of the attack, a second bomb exploded about 15 metres from the first, wounding five of them. Three suffered serious injuries. The second bomb was inside a cooking gas cylinder and believed to weigh about 20kg.

Shortly before, about 7.15am, police and paramilitary rangers raided a rubber plantation in Ban Tue Kor in tambon Chanae of Chanae district.

They converged on a shelter where there were five armed men. The two sides exchanged gunfire for about half an hour. As the militants began retreating a helicopter was called in to help track them.

One militant was found dead at the scene. He was later identified as Abdulloh Masae. An AK-47 rifle and several empty magazines were beside his body.

There were blood trails leaving the area and it was believed other suspects were wounded.

The clash occurred about two kilometers from Ban Tue Kor School, where pupils had already arrived for classes and could clearly hear the gunfire.

Teachers had them huddle down on the floor for their safety and tried to calm the frightened children.

Students at Ban Tue Kor in Chanae district of Narathiwat province take cover on the floor as a gunbattle rages between security forces and insurgents in a nearby rubber plantation. (Video from Ban Tue Kor School)

By Waedao Harai
The Bangkok Post