Deep South: Muslim Cleric Shot Dead, 7-Year-Old Boy Wounded

Muslim students in Narathiwat province condemn violence committed against civilians in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south, 11 Nov 2014.

YALA – An unidentified assailant killed a Muslim cleric and seriously wounded his 7-year-old son in the insurgency-plagued southern province of Yala last night.

According to police, 47-year-old Asan Mataeha, a Muslim teacher at a local madras, was shot "multiple times" in front of his house in Betong district at around 11:10 pm last night.

His 7-year-old son was also shot in the torso and is now being treated at Betong Hospital, police said.

According to Malimee Jeni, a relative of the slain cleric who reportedly witnessed the incident, Asan was parking his motorcycle in front of his house after attending an evening prayer session when the gunman opened fire on him with an AK-47 rifle. 

The black-clad assailant appeared to have been hiding near Asan's house and waiting for him to return home, Malimee said. After Asan went down, the gunman reportedly sprayed bullets across the house where Asan's wife and children were taking cover. One of the bullets hit the 7-year-old boy, Malimee said. 

Police say they found nine AK-47 bullet cases in the area where the assailant was said to be hiding. 

Pol.Lt.Col. Panom Chitpakdee, a detective officer at Iyerweng Police Station, said police have not determined whether the murder was motivated by a "personal conflict," or if the attack was related to the separatist violence that has gripped Yala and two other neighbouring provinces, Pattani and Narathiwat, for the past decade. 

More than 6,200 people have been killed in the three southern border provinces, known as the Deep South, since the latest wave of Islamic insurgency erupted in 2004. The bloody campaign is waged by a variety of Islamic insurgent groups who seek to revive the independent Pattani sultanate that was incorporated into modern Thailand in the early 20th century. 

However, shadowy Buddhist vigilante groups are also known to operate in the area, targeting mosques and suspected sympathisers of the insurgency. 

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