Source AP ©

Bomb explodes in restive southern Thailand

A bomb exploded Friday in front of a crowded teashop in restive southern Thailand, killing one woman and wounding 28 other people.

The bomb was hidden in a bag and placed inside a telephone booth in front of a busy teashop in Yala city, capital of the province of the same name, said police Lt. Col. Jirasit Lomae.

The victims were taken to Yala Hospital, where the names of the wounded were being gathered, said Kallaya Thongthachu, a hospital employee contacted by phone.

The bombing appeared to be the latest attack by Islamic insurgents whose activities have led to more than 2,200 deaths since January 2004.

The dead woman was a 24-year-old Buddhist, said Jirasit. The religions of the other victims were not immediately known.

The bomb exploded at about 8 p.m., a time when many southerners traditionally gather to socialize at tea shops.

"The assailants seized an opportunity to stage an attack when police and soldiers were taking a rest," Jirasit said. Troops had been providing security at trade fair in the province, he said.

Meanwhile, rail service resumed in the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat Friday, four days after suspected insurgents sabotaged tracks causing a train to derail in Pattani province and injuring nine passengers, the State Railway of Thailand said.

About half the usual number of passengers used trains in the three provinces on Friday, despite an increased police and army presence at stations and junctions along the tracks, said Thanongsak Phongprasert, the railway's southern office director.

Separately, arsonists burned down a government school in Yala's Krong Pinang district Thursday night, said police Lt. Narasak Chiangsuk, blaming Muslim insurgents.

Police say the militants believe the government is trying to indoctrinate students with un-Islamic values at public schools. Teachers in southern Thailand are regularly attacked by suspected insurgents.

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