PATTANI, Thailand, May 9, (Agencies): Suspected insurgents in Thailand detonated a car bomb Tuesday outside a busy shopping center in the south of the country, wounding more than 50 people in a huge blast that ripped the building apart and sent people running for their lives. The attackers initially set off firecrackers as a distraction before triggering explosives planted in a pickup truck at the mall’s entrance in the city of Pattani, said Pramote Prom-in, a military spokesman. The blast occurred at one of Thailand’s Big C shopping centers, a major grocery and retail chain. Footage of the scene aired on Thai television stations showed a huge black plume of smoke rising skyward from the blackened building as rescue workers doused the flames and soldiers stood by. Pattani Hospital posted on its board of emergency room patients that 52 people were injured from the incident. No deaths have been reported. Muslim separatists have waged a bloody insurgency for years in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces, the only ones with Muslim majorities in the predominantly Buddhist country. More than 6,500 people have been killed since 2004. Shortly before Tuesday’s attack junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha reiterated his opposition to international help in solving the festering conflict. “We must keep this issue away from the reach of the international arena,” he told reporters in Bangkok.
IS operative dead in Syria: Malaysia’s police chief says the country’s top Islamic State operative was killed in an attack in Syria last month. Twenty-six-year-old Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi was believed to have been responsible for a grenade blast at a bar in a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur last June that injured eight people. It was the first attack in the country by the Islamic State militant group. Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar tweeted late Monday that intelligence had been obtained that Muhammad Wanndy died in an attack in Raqqa, Syria, on April 29. He didn’t give further details. Muslim-majority Malaysia has detained more than 250 suspected militants over the last three years, including some allegedly planning attacks in the country.