Southern Market Bomb Kills 2, Wounds Dozen

Security officers collect evidence at the scene of a bomb attack in Pattani province on May 27, 2019.

PATTANI — The government on Tuesday condemned a bomb attack at a busy market in Pattani province that killed two people: a woman and a 14-year-old boy.

The bomb struck the marketplace in Nong Chik district just as Ramadan shoppers would have been buying food for an iftar meal, the army said. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, though the armed forces suspect local separatists galvanized by the holy month.

“The incident was committed by a group of people who have performed such attacks before,” deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan said at Government House.

“It’s an extremist act and a sin born of ideological distortion and deception,” a counter-insurgency agency spokesman, Col. Pramote Prom-in, told reporters. “Apart from legal consequences, these criminals will also face divine punishment in accordance with Islamic teachings.”

Col. Pramote added, “I urge all sectors to unite in righteous force to oppose and condemn this incident.”

Investigators said the perpetrators hid the explosives inside a 15-kilogram gas canister and detonated the bomb just as a group of paramilitary rangers on patrol arrived at the market.

The deadly bomb attack continues a surge in violence that has gripped the southernmost region since the holy month of Ramadan started on May 5. On that day, five policemen were wounded when an explosive went off in Songkhla. More bombs were thrown at security forces in Yala on May 15, while a roadside bombing killed a policeman in Songkhla on May 26.

Experts say Ramadan holds spiritual meaning for the network of shadowy militants who seek to secede the Muslim-majority southern border provinces and revive an independent Islamic nation.

On Tuesday, a gunfight also broke out in Yala province during a raid on a home where armed insurgents were believed to be hiding. The military said a gunman opened fire on the security officers first, wounding a ranger and forcing them to return fire.

According to the military, the clash killed a 38-year-old militant wanted for multiple attacks on security forces, though other insurgents managed to flee the scene. The military said it found four gallons of petroleum at the residence.

Nearly 7,000 people have died in the Deep South since the secessionist violence broke out in early 2004.