May 30, 2015 / 2:43 PM / in 2 years

Gunmen shoot dead two soldiers in south of Thailand: police

YALA, Thailand (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen shot dead two soldiers in an ambush in Thailand’s southern province of Pattani on Saturday, police said.

The two military rangers, who were in civilian clothing, were killed as they rode on a motorcycle in the early evening in Pattani’s Kapor district, provincial police deputy commander Colonel Prabpal Mingmongkol told Reuters.

The assailants took the soldiers’ rifles following the attack, he said.

More than 6,500 people, most of them civilians, have died since 2004 when violence erupted in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, home to a Muslim majority in predominately Buddhist Thailand.

Resistance to central government rule has existed in the south for decades. Earlier this month, 18 people were wounded in a string of bomb attacks in Yala.

Thailand’s military government says it has adopted new strategies, including DNA swabbing, to curb the insurgency, although lawyers and activists say the forced DNA sweeps are further alienating residents.

Reporting By Surapan Boonthanom in Pattani, Thailand; Writing by Aubrey Belford in Yangon; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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