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5 dead as fresh fighting rattles south Thailand

BANGKOK--A 10-year-old girl died in a grenade blast while four others — including a soldier — were killed in a shootout hours later in Thailand's war-torn deep south, officials said Monday.

The girl was killed when suspected Muslim rebels, who are fighting for a greater level of autonomy from the Thai state, detonated a grenade near a mosque in Pattani province late Sunday.

“She died later at a hospital,” police commander Panya Karawanan, of Saiburi district told AFP, adding five teenage girls and two military rangers — the apparent target of the attack — were also wounded.

A gun fight on Monday morning in a so-called security 'red zone' in neighboring Narathiwat province left one soldier and three suspected rebels dead, marring the start of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.

“One soldier was killed at the scene, three gunmen were also killed — a policeman was seriously injured,” Narong Tongkhaw of Rueso Police told AFP.

Narong said the wounded policeman was a Muslim on his way back home to celebrate Eid — the end of the Ramadan fasting season which began on Monday.

“They (the rebels) attack whenever they have a chance,” said Narong. “They want to show that they still have influence — they want to create unrest by killing the authorities.”

Narathiwat is one of three southernmost Thai provinces bordering Malaysia afflicted by a decade-long insurgency.

More than 6,100 people have been killed in near-daily bombings and shootings in the Muslim-majority region since 2004.

Buddhists and Muslims alike fall victim to the shadowy insurgents, who target security forces, civilians and perceived representatives of state authority.

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