23 Yala banks hit by bomb blasts
Yala - Muslim militants launched 23coordinated time bomb attacks at commercial banks in this southern province Thursday, killing at least one man and severely injuring at least four bank customers, police said.
The bombs, mostly left on bank counters and some in ATM booths at the banks, were detonated mostly by clocks between 11:30 to 11:35 am. Twenty six people suffered minor injuries.
Police said militants dressed in student uniformed carried bombs hidden in folders, books and plastic banks and left them on counters where customers wrote bank slips.
The attacks prompted all banks in the province to close its business for a day and at least five schools decided to close and released students home.
The attacks were carried out in five districts - 11 in Muang, six in Betong, 2 in Yaha, 2 in Bannang Sata and 2 in Raman.
Police said most of the injured were those who came in to draw cash from ATM machines.
Most of the bombs were hidden in thick books, which pages carved out or in women handbags.
The killed was identified as Major Sanuchart Srithong, a retired army officer.
Police sources said two Muslim youths have been arrested after police checked tape from security cameras of ATM booths and saw them planting the bombs.
In Muang district, 11 banks were attacked. They were Government Savings Bank (GSB), Bank of Ayudhya (BAY), Krungthai Bank (KTB), two branches of Islamic Bank, Kasikorn Thai Bank, Siam City Bank (SCIB), Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), Thai Military Bank and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB).
In Betong, the BAAC branch, SCB branch, Kasikorn Thai branch, GSB branch and KTB branch were attacked. Another bomb was defused in time at the Bangkok Bank.
In Yaha, the GSB branch and BAAC branch were attacked.
In Bannang Sata, the KTB and BAAC branches were attacked.
In Raman, the KTB and BAAC branches were hit by the bombs.
A source from the Siam City Bank in Yala downtown said an official received a phone call, saying a bomb had been planted near the manager's room.
The caller told the bank to evacuate its employees immediately but the bomb exploded shortly after the phone was hung up.
A bank official was injured on his arm and bank customers ran for their life after the explosion, the source said.
Sources from security agencies said they have received a tip-off that the militants would launch coordinated attacks in a few days but they expected the attacks would be carried out on Friday.
Somsak Thisarn, the manager of SCB Yala branch, said the Yala Banker Association resolved to have all banks in Yala closed for a day.
Sanya Suwanpho, chairman of the Yala Teachers Federation, said some schools decided to close for fear that militants would shift attacks to schools after the banks.
He said parents and teachers had learnt that the militants would launch attacks on August 31 to mark the formation of the Bersatu terrorist umbrella group.
Lt Gen Ongkorn Thongprasom, commander of the Fourth Army Area, said all army forces in Yala had been deployed to control the situation shortly after the attacks.