Thai Army Storms Mosque
- SOUTHERN THAI MUSLIMS GRIEVE, ARMY HUNTS MILITANTS
Vorasit Satienlerk, Reuters, 4/30/04
PATTANI, Thailand - Saddened and angry, Muslims attended Friday
prayers across restive southern Thailand as troops stepped up the
hunt for what officials said could be thousands of Islamic
Thailand is reeling from Wednesday's unprecedented violence in its
three southern, Muslim-majority provinces, where troops and police
shot dead 108 gun- and machete-wielding Islamic militants after
coming under attack in a series of dawn raids.
"The people are upset and angry," said Yosoff Samail, 60, head cleric
at the central mosque in the provincial town of Pattani, where troops
with rocket-propelled grenades and teargas stormed another mosque and
killed more than 30 insurgents inside.
"They want to know why the army killed those in the mosque. Why did
they use heavy weapons? Why didn't they ask the chief Islamic leader
what to do?" he said after prayers attended by more than 1,000
faithful, many spilling onto the streets.
Across the border in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where sympathy is
strong for Malay-speaking Thai Muslims, opposition politicians
branded the mosque shootout the "massacre of Pattani."
"This is an oppression, a massacre against Muslims," said Sallehuddin
Ayob, youth chief of the Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), adding that
no one had proved the dead were terrorists...
THAI REBELS AT MOSQUE KNEW THEIR FATE, WITNESSES SAY;
Richard C. Paddock, Los Angeles Times, 4/30/04
PATTANI, Thailand - The smell of blood hung over the Krue Se mosque
Thursday. Its historic brick walls were marred by hundreds of bullet
holes. Its marble floors were gouged where rocket-propelled grenades
exploded. A torn, bloodstained Koran lay salvaged in the courtyard.
Here, 32 Muslim rebels chose to die Wednesday in a hail of lead and
shrapnel rather than surrender to police. A day later, thousands came
to view the gruesome scene. To many, the dead were heroes.
"If they wanted to escape, they could have easily," said Anek
Wannailao, a regular worshiper at the mosque. "But they wanted to
come here and create history."
The men were among 108 Islamic militants who died after attacking a
dozen police stations and checkpoints in southern Thailand in an
attempt to steal firearms. Many of the rebels were armed only with
machetes. Five police officers and soldiers also died.
The security forces, which had been alerted in advance to the planned
simultaneous dawn assaults, gunned down many of the rebels as they
attacked. Facing certain defeat, the 32 fighters retreated to the
16th century mosque, one of the holiest Islamic sites in Thailand.
Shooing others out of the building, the rebels took over the
loudspeaker used for the call to prayer and urged fellow Muslims to
join them in devoting their lives to God, witnesses said...
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