Bombs injure scores in Thailand

A car bomb blast at a fruit market and another explosion minutes later at a nearby teashop wounded 73 people in Muslim southern Thailand today, police said.

The first explosion appeared to target an outdoor meeting of village chiefs at a district office in Narathiwat, one of the three southernmost provinces roiled by the violence, police said.

A second device hidden in a motorcycle exploded two minutes later at a tea-shop 100 metres away, police said.

Five of the victims had shrapnel wounds to the head or torso, and two needed surgery, a state hospital official told Reuters.

Forty were released after treatment for minor injuries, the official added.

Narathiwat and the neighbouring provinces of Pattani and Yala, abutting Malaysia, were a Muslim sultanate until annexed by predominantly Bangkok a century ago. Around 80 percent of people there remain Muslim and speak a Malay dialect, not Thai.

The violence, which has seen 3,200 people die in a five-year rebellion, has ranged from drive-by shootings and bombings, to beheadings and appears to target both Buddhists and Muslims associated with the Thai state, such as police, soldiers, teachers and government officials.

Human rights groups also accuse the Thai military and police of atrocities.

No group has ever claimed responsibility for the violence, which has remained limited to the immediate area.

There has also been no evidence to suggest direct links with international militant groups such as Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda or its regional affiliate, Jemaah Islamiah.

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