Updated at 5:53 p.m. ET on 2019-11-15
Suspected Thai insurgents shot dead a couple and wounded a toddler Friday in Thailand’s Deep South, in a nighttime attack amid heightened security after gunmen killed 15 people last week at two security outposts in the region, officials said.
In Friday’s attack, gunmen opened fire as Anukoon Khunkaew, 60, and his wife, Yupin Khunkaew, 55, were riding a motorbike with a 2-year-old girl on their way home in Mae Lan, a district of Pattani province, investigators said.
“We ordered the officers and patrol units to hunt down the assailants,” Maj. Gen. Piyapong Wongchan, the provincial police chief, told reporters. “The operation includes setting up checkpoints to search for those who we believe are suspected insurgents in the area.”
The attack was the first bloodshed believed to be linked to the separatist insurgency since the 15 were gunned down in neighboring Yala province on Nov. 5.
The girl, believed to be the couple’s grandchild, suffered injuries and was taken to a local hospital, Capt. Natthanon Inthongmak, Mae Lan’s deputy police chief, told reporters.
He said the couple, who were ambushed after they left a local market, were parents of a police sergeant who serves in Yala.
On Nov. 5, motorcycle-riding gunmen and others on foot opened fire on two checkpoints in Maung, a district of Yala, killing 15 civilians, defense volunteers and police officers.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha later authorized security forces to impose curfews in nine districts of the Deep South after the attacks in Yala.
Lt. Gen. Ronnasil Phusara, the Region 9 police chief, told reporters Friday that authorities had detained at least 11 people for questioning related to those attacks. He did not elaborate.
“The authorities have received more information and evidences after witness examination, including those detained for questioning,” he said.
No arrests have been made in connection with Friday’s attack. Authorities said this week that they had issued warrants for the arrests of three men - all suspected insurgents - wanted in the Nov. 5 killings.
The Deep South borders Malaysia and encompasses the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala, as well as four districts in neighboring Songkhla. Almost 7,000 people have been killed in the region since insurgents renewed their campaign against Buddhist-majority Thailand 15 years ago.
According to official figures compiled by BenarNews, at least 97 people had been killed and 137 others wounded in shootings and roadside bombings in the Deep South since January this year. It was not immediately clear how many of those killings could be attributed to insurgents.