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Leading imam shot down as violence escalates in South

An important religious figure in the deep South, Imam Yakob Raimanee of the Central Masjid in Pattani, was killed yesterday in a gunfire attack while travelling in Muang district.

Four gunmen sprayed his vehicle with automatic fire.

There are no details on whether Yakob's family members who were travelling in a family pickup truck are safe or were also harmed.

Yakob survived an assassination attempt in October 2011, and since had been protected by security. He was a moderate cleric who often criticised violence by insurgents.

Another news report said he was shot while shopping on foot at a market.

Meanwhile, the ongoing peace dialogue with insurgents’ representatives would continue regardless of whether Hassan Taib remains their leader or is replaced, National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanatabutr said yesterday.

The chief negotiator on the Thai side was responding to unaccredited reports on the possible replacement of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) head by a new, unidentified person. He said confirmation from Malaysian authorities, as the facilitator in the peace talks, would be needed to verify the reported replacement.

Paradorn said a fourth round of talks would be held on August 18 as scheduled, and that a joint committee of Thai and Malaysian authorities would likely be set up for easier coordination to check on insurgency violence to determine who was responsible, especially for incidents occurring during the Ramadan truce.

Authorities in the deep South have been instructed to provide security on two fronts - to cope with an anticipated rise in violence after the conclusion of Ramadan, which ends tomorrow, and at events where Eid al-Fitr ceremonies are held the next day. Security for train travel would also be heightened to cope with extra numbers of Muslim passengers travelling throughout the South to attend events.

In Yala, five members of a foot-patrol escorting teachers were hurt, struck down by blasts from a roadside bomb blast yesterday in Muang district. One victim lost a leg. Military ordnance personnel said the bomb was made of a metal pipe with 5kg of explosive, and detonated via two-way radio frequency.

In Pattani, five people were wounded in a grenade attack at a food shop in Mayor district. Quoting witnesses, police said four attackers arrived at the scene on two motorcycles, with the thrower of the grenade dressed as a woman in a hijab.




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