BANGKOK, Thailand – In the most daring assault in months in Muslim-dominated southern Thailand (search), raiders killed four soldiers and stole scores of guns from a military armory Sunday while other assailants set fire to 18 secular schools, an official said.
No one was hurt in the school fires.
Army spokesman Col. Somkhuan Saengpatranet said about 30 people participated in Sunday's attack on the armory in Narathiwat province (search), but officials have not yet identified them.
Narathiwat is one of four Muslim-majority provinces in Thailand, which is predominantly Buddhist. The south has seen a surge of attacks on government targets in recent years, and more than 50 soldiers and policemen have been killed.
The region has seen an Islamic insurgency and government officials have blamed a recent upsurge in violence on Muslim separatists, bandits and criminals.
Government-run secular schools have been targeted in the past because they were considered anti-Islamic by the separatist militants.
As the schools burned, a separate group of assailants raided an armory, killing four soldiers guarding it. Thailand's army radio station said two were shot in the head, one had his throat slashed and the fourth suffered blows to the head.
The raid prompted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (search) to call an emergency meeting of top security officials.
Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said the attackers apparently were aided by someone inside the military camp where the armory is located.
Military spokesman Lt. Gen. Phalangun Krahan said the assailants stole 103 assault rifles. However, the state-run Thai News Agency quoted unidentified sources as saying the attackers fled with 300 assault rifles, 40 pistols and two M-60 machine guns.
The military has ordered a manhunt and asked Malaysia to seal its border with Narathiwat to prevent the attackers from fleeing there.