Journalists among 10 hurt in Thai south blasts

Journalists among 10 hurt in Thai south blasts
Thai bomb squad members inspect the site of a roadside bomb attack by suspected separatist militants on a pick-up truck carrying patroling soldiers in Thailand's restive southern province of Narathiwat on October 9, 2013.

BANGKOK - A double bomb attack in Thailand's restive south Saturday injured 10 people, almost half of them journalists including an AFP photographer, police said.

An initial explosion early Saturday in Narathiwat, one of several insurgency-prone provinces, apparently targeted an army patrol injuring six military personnel, police said.

Journalists who rushed to the scene were standing at a distance from the original bomb site when the second device exploded near them, said AFP photographer Madaree Tohala who was injured in the blast.

"We were chatting on the side of the road while we waited for authorities to do their jobs," Madaree said.

"I don't know how it happened, I heard a big explosion which was not far from where I was standing and when I opened my eyes I saw my reporter friends lying on the street," he said.

Almost a decade of conflict has left more than 5,700 people dead in the Thai south.

Shadowy groups of Muslim militants, calling for autonomy for the region, have waged near-daily bomb and gun attacks, targeting security forces and civilians from both the Buddhist and Muslim communities.

Madaree, who was hit by shrapnel in the back and ear, was being treated at a provincial hospital Saturday.

The other three reporters, including one woman, were believed to be from local television stations. None of them are thought to have been seriously hurt.

Three of the army personnel injured were said to be in a critical condition.

Violence erupted in the Muslim-majority region bordering Malaysia in 2004.

As the conflict has continued, rights groups have also accused Thai authorities of alleged human rights abuses and efforts to weave the culturally distinct south into the kingdom.

People of both religions are considered targets of the militants for their supposed collusion with the state, with teams of troops flanking monks on their rounds and teachers as they make their way to and from school.

But attacks on journalists in the region are rare.

Violence in the south continues despite several rounds of peace talks, hosted by Malaysia, between the Thai authorities and one of a network of rebel groups.

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