PATTANI, Thailand (AP) — Muslim insurgents disguised as paramilitary rangers attacked troops guarding a school in southern Thailand on Wednesday, killing four soldiers and wounding two others, police said. A 6-year-old boy was shot in the stomach during the assault.
Police Lt. Gen. Satanfah Wamasing said 15 assailants walked up to the school and began talking with soldiers assigned to guard teachers there. They opened fire at close range and fled with four of the soldiers' M-16 automatic rifles.
The bloodshed in Narathiwat province's Rue So district is the latest in a wave of violence in Thailand's Muslim-dominated southernmost provinces since an Islamist insurgency flared in 2004.
Government soldiers are often designated to guard teachers and monks in the region.
Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a tweet that the New York-based group has warned Thai authorities "that the simultaneous use of school for military and education purposes will put civilians at risk."
But Sunai condemned the attack, saying: "Insurgents knew they could also harm students and teachers. Such brutality is sickening."
In a separate incident Wednesday in neighboring Pattani province, two gunmen on a motorcycle fatally shot a 48-year-old person in a market in Nong Chik district, police Lt. Gen. Chonnavi Chamaroek said.
On Wednesday, Amnesty International condemned the insurgents for targeting civilians in the conflict, saying such attacks constitute war crimes.
It said noncombatants have accounted for two-thirds of the nearly 5,000 deaths reported during the insurgency in the past eight years, while close to 8,000 people have been wounded.
Most of the violence has been confined to three southern provinces dominated by ethnic Malay Muslims who are a minority in mostly Buddhist Thailand. The area used to be an Islamic sultanate until it was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century.