Troops kill 2 rebels in Thai south shootout

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Saturday, 19 March 2011 07:00 GMT

YALA, Thailand, March 19 (Reuters) - Two suspected insurgents were killed in a gunfight in Thailand's restive Muslim south on Saturday after launching an ambush on a military patrol, police said.

The gunmen, believed to be separatist rebels, opened fire on troops and paramilitary rangers early in the morning in the mountains of Yala province, leading to a shootout that left two of the militants dead.

The rest of the group fled and three M-16 assault rifles were retrieved, police said.

The attacks were the latest in a recent intensification of violence in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces bordering Malaysia, where ethnic Malay separatists are waging a bloody rebellion against the Thai state.

The violence has killed 4,500 people since the decades-old conflict resurfaced in early 2004 in the once independent region, where ethnic Malay Muslims form the majority of the local population.

(Reporting by Surapan Boonthanom; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani))

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