Four police officers were killed in a gun and grenade attack in front of a nursery school in Thailand's insurgency-hit south Friday, an official said, as bloodshed continued to dampen hopes for peace talks.

Suspected rebels struck late afternoon as police patrolled in a car near the school in Rueso district -- a hotbed of the insurgency -- in Narathiwat province.

"Four police were killed," Police Major Denpong Temyod of Rueso Police Station told AFP. "Their patrol vehicle was attacked today (Friday) in front of a nursery school."

Two other policeman from the same station confirmed the death toll.

Thai media reports said the assailants stole guns from the police after the attack.

Narathiwat is one of several provinces in Thailand's Muslim-majority south, where some 5,700 people have been killed since the insurgency flared in 2004.

Rounds of peace talks in Malaysia between Thai authorities and some rebel groups, including the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, had raised tentative hopes of peace.

A ceasefire, supposed to last from July 10 to August 18 to mark the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, initially appeared to hold.

But rebel attacks began again after a few days, with local observers recording dozens of deaths during the period and attacks have increased in the days since.

It was unclear Friday if rebels, who last week threatened to pull out of the peace dialogue, were still willing to negotiate with Thai authorities.

Thailand, which has floated a limited form of local government for the Muslim-majority south, has said talks will continue.

Talks began on March 28 in neighbouring Malaysia but have so far failed to halt near-daily violence, raising questions about the rebel group's influence over increasingly violent grassroots insurgents.