Thai Jihad Update from AFP:
YALA, Thailand (AFP) – A wave of small bombs have exploded almost simultaneously at 22 banks in Thailand’s Muslim-majority south, leaving one person dead and at least 29 injured.
Militants, many of them dressed as students, left the bombs hidden inside books at commercial banks across the province of Yala, the regional army commander, Lieutenant General Ong-korn Thongprasom told Thai television on Thursday.
“Two suspects were arrested in connection with the bomb attacks. Mostly the militants used young men dressed in student uniforms to plant small bombs which were hidden inside books,” he said on Thursday.
Nopporn Thammasart, branch manager of the Bank of Ayudhya in Yala, said his staff received a telephone call warning of a bomb just minutes before the blast injured two of his customers.
“I had no time to inform the police, because within two minutes of the phone call, the bomb exploded,” he said.
The blasts shattered windows but caused relatively little damage at the banks. Most of the banks in the region closed immediately, and the Bank of Thailand said most would remain closed Friday to make repairs.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the government had sent intelligence reports to security officials in the region warning of an imminent attack.
“We learned about the attack in advance through our intelligence and we had warned local officials,” he told reporters.
Thailand’s top security official, deputy prime minister Chidchai Vanasathidya, said the separatists, who are mainly ethnic Malay, wanted the attacks Thursday to coincide with independence day in neighboring Malaysia.
“We warned security forces in the region that the militants may stage attacks today to mark the Malaysian national day,” he told reporters.
The bombs exploded at 10 banks in Yala provincial town, and the rest in outlying areas of the province, police said.
Banks under the umbrella of the Bank of Thailand, including the Bank of Ayudhya mentioned above, charge interest — considered usury, or riba — which is forbidden under Sharia law.
Two Muslim men were shot dead in Yala during the night, police added.
Most of the attacks in the region along the southern border with Malaysia are small bombings or drive-by shootings.
But during the last three months, militants have shown themselves capable of conducting well-coordinated attacks that seemed designed to intimidate rather than kill, political analyst Panitan Wattanayagorn said.
“The bombs in the south are to make local people scared and feel that government cannot provide them security,” Panitan said.
In the last wave of attacks on August 2, militants staged nearly 100 coordinated bomb and arson attacks that injured three people.
On June 15, they bombed 46 police, government and business targets, killing two people and wounding at least 21.
The three provinces along the Malaysian border were an ethnic Malay sultanate until Buddhist Thailand annexed them a century ago, and separatist unrest has simmered ever since.
More than 1,400 people have been killed in the mainly Muslim provinces since the latest violence erupted in January 2004.