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Bomb blasts kill 14 in Thailand

Suspected Muslim insurgents staged the most deadly coordinated attacks in years in Thailand's restive south, killing 14 people and wounding 340 with car bombs that targeted Saturday shoppers and a high-rise hotel frequented by foreign tourists.

A first batch of explosives inside a parked pickup truck ripped through an area of restaurants and shops in a busy area of Yala city, a main commercial hub, said district police chief Col. Kritsada Kaewchandee. About 20 minutes later, as onlookers gathered at the blast site, a car bomb exploded, causing the majority of casualties. Eleven people were killed and 110 wounded by the blasts.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in Thailand's three southernmost provinces -- Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala -- since an Islamist insurgency flared in January 2004.

"This is the worst attack in the past few years," said Col. Pramote Promin, deputy spokesman of a regional security agency. "The suspected insurgents were targeting people's lives. They (chose) a bustling commercial area, so they wanted to harm people."

A blast also occurred at a high-rise hotel in the city of Hat Yai, in the nearby province of Songkhla.

The midday explosion at the 405-room Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel, where throngs of Malaysian and Singaporean tourists spend their weekends, killed three people and caused about 230 injuries, mostly from smoke inhalation, police said.

After inspecting the hotel's underground parking lot, authorities found a severely damaged sedan and a hole created by the explosion's impact.

Regional police chief Lt. Gen. Jakthip Chaijinda said the Hat Yai incident "is likely related to what happened in Yala and might have been plotted by the same group of insurgents."

In a third attack, suspected Muslim militants detonated a motorcycle bomb 165 feet from a local police station in Pattani province's Mae Lan district, wounding one police officer.

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