Thai security forces kill two linked to deadly shooting at school

Paramedics take away a body after four Thai civil defense volunteers were shot and killed by suspected insurgents outside of a school in the southern province of Pattani on January 10. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Thai security forces kill two linked to deadly shooting at school

  • Since 2004 clashes between Malay-Muslim rebels and the Buddhist-majority Thai state have killed nearly 7,000 people
  • The death toll in the conflict dropped to a record low last year as Thailand’s junta tightened its security operations

BANGKOK: Two insurgents believed to be tied to a motorcycle drive-by shooting at a school in Thailand’s south were shot dead Saturday, police said, as UNICEF warned of trauma for children near the scene of the lunchtime violence.
Since 2004 clashes between Malay-Muslim rebels and the Buddhist-majority Thai state that annexed the area over 100 years ago have killed nearly 7,000 people, mostly civilians of both faiths.
The conflict rarely makes global headlines but is a reality for residents of border provinces where security forces maintain a large footprint, aided by poorly paid defense “volunteers” drawn from local communities.
The four men killed in Thursday’s shooting were all Muslims and were guarding a school in Pattani province when the attackers struck just before lunchtime with students mere meters away.
Pattani provincial police commander Piyawat Chalermsri said Saturday that two people with alleged ties to the school violence were killed in a shootout Saturday morning.
Though he did not give information about their identities or affiliation, he said he was “confident that they are the same group who carried out the attack Thursday” by driving by on motorbikes.
Authorities have also detained one suspect and are questioning five others, while a military source said an eight-year-old had been grazed by a bullet but not seriously injured.
UNICEF Thailand representative Thomas Davin said Friday that one child at the Bukoh school attack was reportedly injured by debris and some who may have witnessed the attack could face long term psychological trauma.
“This attack has undoubtedly put the school children, the teachers and school personnel in harm’s way. It has put children at grave risk of injury or death,” he said.
“Such violence could also affect parents’ willingness to send their children to school — potentially to the detriment of many children’s learning and future development.”
The 15-year insurgency has seen scores of teachers killed, slain for their perceived collaboration with the Thai state, which led to the use of armed guards at schools.
The death toll in the conflict dropped to a record low last year as Thailand’s junta tightened its security operations.
But recent weeks have seen an uptick in violence, as rebels show they remain able to carry out more pinpointed operations.
In a rare statement dated January 4 the main rebel group — the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) — swore to “keep fighting” while warning people not to help or support the state.
But Thai authorities as well as the Malaysian facilitator of the talks have recently expressed confidence they will make progress soon.
Former 4th Army commander Udomchai Thammasarorat said at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Thailand on Friday that he “wants to find a solution to exit from the violence” and he has urged the southern army commander to try and ensure public safety.


Turkish banker released from US prison

Updated 9 min 24 sec ago
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Turkish banker released from US prison

  • Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, deputy director general of Turkish lender Halkbank, was arrested in March 2017 and convicted the following year on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy following a five-week trial in New York
  • Erdogan has repeatedly rejected the allegations, saying Turkey did not violate the US embargo on Iran and that political rivals were behind the case

NEW YORK: A Turkish banker convicted for plotting to help Iran evade American sanctions on Iranian oil proceeds has been released from US prison, according to his lawyer and prison officials.
Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, deputy director general of Turkish lender Halkbank, was arrested in March 2017 and convicted the following year on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy following a five-week trial in New York.
He was handed over to immigration police on Friday pending his deportation to Turkey, his lawyer Victor Rocco told AFP. Prison authorities confirmed his release.
Atilla claimed that he had only played a minor role in the scheme and acted as executor of instructions by the bank’s director general — an argument accepted by the court.
Prosecutors had wanted a 20-year sentence for the banker.
His conviction hinged on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was arrested by US authorities in 2016 after jetting to Florida with his pop-star wife and child on a family holiday to Disney World.
Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then flipped, becoming a US government witness after admitting being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert US economic sanctions against Iran.
His testimony identified Atilla as a key organizer in the scheme, but also implicated former Turkish ministers and even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Testifying in court last November, Zarrab said he was told that Erdogan, as prime minister in 2012, and treasury minister Ali Babacan gave “instructions” to two public banks to take part in the scheme.
Erdogan has repeatedly rejected the allegations, saying Turkey did not violate the US embargo on Iran and that political rivals were behind the case.
Zarrab’s sentence is not known, as many of the documents in his case have remained confidential.