Suspected Muslim insurgents have killed at least seven people in back-to-back shooting and bomb attacks in Thailand's troubled south, police said Monday.
On Sunday evening an unknown number of gunmen dressed as women, travelling in three pick-up trucks, opened fire on a checkpoint in the main town of Narathiwat province killing two rangers.
Shortly afterwards a bomb exploded at a nearby supermarket, followed by a second bomb at another supermarket about 300 metres (yards) away, causing fires that spread through shophouses and took three hours to extinguish.
Police said they found two charred bodies of the male owner and a female teacher in the first shop, while a young boy and his parents were found dead in the second.
Another seven people suffered burns in the attacks, which happened within the space of half an hour -- the latest in a series of increasingly brazen attacks by the shadowy militants.
Thailand's southernmost provinces have been plagued by more than eight years of conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 4,800 people, both Muslims and Buddhists.
Late last month, more than a dozen suspected insurgents attacked a school in Narathiwat, killing four soldiers and seriously wounding one child.
Teachers working in state schools are frequently targeted because they are seen as a symbol of government authority and an education system perceived as an effort by Bangkok to impose Buddhist culture.
People in the region complain there is discrimination against ethnic Malay Muslims by authorities in the Buddhist-majority nation, including alleged abuses by the armed forces.