Thai security officials have gunned down the two main suspects wanted in twin attacks that killed 15 people early this month in the insurgency-stricken Deep South, officials said Friday.
Suspected rebels Sobri Lamso, 28, and Mayago Lateh, 40, planned the Nov. 5 attacks on two security checkpoints in Yala province, Lt. Gen. Pornsak Poolsawat, chief of the army’s Area 4 Command, told a news conference.
He said the two men, suspected to be leaders of local insurgent cells, were gunned down late Thursday when they traded shots with authorities during a raid in nearby Pattani province.
“We are sorry for their relatives and families who may not know about the duo’s acts,” Pornsak said. “We used lenient measures and tried to negotiate with them to come out to fight in court, but they did not surrender, leading to the losses.”
The raid took place two weeks after authorities issued arrest warrants against the two main suspects in the deadliest outburst of violence in a single day in the restive south since the separatist insurgency reignited in 2004, according to the military.
Pornsak said authorities received a tip-off that the suspects were hiding at a house in Pattani’s Nong Chik district. Local clerics and village leaders tried to convince the suspects to surrender for about three hours before the firefight with law-enforcement officials ensued, he said.
“The duo were key leaders of the insurgents,” Pornsak said. “They hatched the attacks on defense volunteers … killing 15.”
During the same news conference, police Lt. Gen. Ronasilp Poosara said ballistics testing had confirmed that a pair of handguns recovered from the two suspects were also used in several insurgent attacks.
Ronasilp said one of the seized firearms, a 9 mm handgun, was among the weapons used by the attackers in Yala. Another weapon, a .45-caliber pistol, was used in the recent killing of a policeman, he said.
“Those two guns were used in 14 separate attacks,” he said, adding that six arrest warrants had been issued against Sobri and 10 for Mayago.
Sobri’s father and sister retrieved his body on Friday from Nong Chik Hospital in Pattani. They declined to comment when asked by BenarNews reporters.
But their village chiefs said they had knowledge of their insurgent links.
“The family brought the body home for burial. Local residents feel sad but accept the fact that they were insurgent members,” Suriya Bosu, chief of Kuanran Village in Saba Yoi district of Songkhla province, told BenarNews.
After the gunfight, security officials said they had summoned the homeowner for questioning at a military base in Pattani. Authorities had earlier detained six suspects, but none have been charged. BenarNews could not immediately confirm if they were still in detention.
A seventh man, whose arrest was announced last week, was released after being questioned without any charges being filed against him, according to police.
A day after the Nov. 5 attacks, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha authorized security forces to impose curfews in nine districts of the Deep South following the Yala attacks that killed a mix of police officers, village defense volunteers and civilians.
The Deep South borders Malaysia and encompasses Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces, as well as four districts in Songkhla. Nearly 7,000 people have died in violence in the mainly Muslim and Malay-speaking region since the separatist insurgency flared up again 15 years ago.