Muslim insurgents have widened their bloody attacks in Thailand’s south to target busy commercial and tourist areas.
In the past they have mostly been drive-by attacks on military targets or other symbols of Thai authority, such as schools and teachers.
Only occasionally have they launched indiscriminate attacks, such as on Saturday afternoon when co-ordinated vehicle bombs targeted areas frequented by Thai-Chinese, Buddhists, Muslims and foreigners.
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Eleven people were killed and more than 400 injured in the blasts, more than 100 of them seriously. At least one of the dead was Malaysian.
The attacks came after weeks of steadily building tensions in the region where more than 5000 people have been killed since 2004.
”This is the worst attack in the past few years,” said Colonel Pramote Promin, a regional military spokesman.
”The suspected insurgents were targeting people’s lives. They [chose] a bustling commercial area, so they wanted to harm people.”
The first bomb planted in a pick-up truck ripped through restaurants and shops in Yala City, a main commercial hub.
As on-lookers gathered and emergency services rushed to the scene a second vehicle bomb exploded, causing even more casualties.
Photographs showed the bomb outside a 7-Eleven store tore apart vehicles and shops frequented by ethnic Chinese, Thai Muslims and Buddhists.
A military truck was parked near the scene of the first bomb.
A security camera showed one of the bombers fleeing the scene on a motorcycle.
Another bomb exploded at the 405-room Lee Gardens Hotel in Hat Yai, capital of the nearby province of Songkhla.
Three people were killed and 230 hurt in that blast, mostly from smoke inhalation.
Authorities said the bomb was planted in a vehicle parked in the hotel basement.