Security officials in southern Thailand say two men suspected of involvement with violent unrest were killed in a shootout with police and soldiers who had been tracking them.

Police Deputy Inspector Weeradech Sukjroong said the two killed Friday in Yala province had been subjects of several arrest warrants in connection with violent events attributed to Muslim separatists.

More than 6,000 people have been killed since a separatist insurgency flared in 2004 in Thailand's three southernmost provinces, the only ones with Muslim majorities in the predominantly Buddhist country.

Police in Narathwat province in a separate incident on Friday disarmed an improvised explosive device found in an irrigation ditch. They suspect it was meant to be placed beside the road to detonate when a government patrol passed by.