Stolen pickup explodes outside police houses in Pattani

Bomb disposal police examine the wreckage of a stolen pickup truck used as a car bomb, which exploded and damaged 10 police houses in Pattani’s Mayo district in the early hours of Thursday. Nobody was injured. (Photo by Abdulloh Benjakat)

One of six pickup trucks stolen from a car dealer in Songkhla on Wednesday was fitted with explosives and detonated outside a row of police residences in Pattani early on Thursday.

No-one was injured, but there was extensive damage to the houses.

Meanwhile, police investigators reportedly have identified seven suspects in the series of robberies that preceded the morning’s car bombing. Arrest warrants would be sought for four of them, who were seen in surveillance photos with uncovered faces. A fifth had been shot dead during a car chase on Wednesday.

An Isuzu pickup with Songkhla plates stolen from the used-car showroom in Songkhla exploded shortly after it was parked in front of a row of police residences in Mayo district of Pattani around 3.50am on Thursday.

Ten houses were damaged, but nobody was injured, according to Pol Lt Col Noppasit Tem-onglar, deputy chief of Mayo police. Metal shards from the shattered vehicle and other bomb debris were scattered over the area.

Pol Cpl Saenya Khongyuen’s house suffered the worst damage, as the bomb-stuffed pickup was parked in front of it.

The vehicle had reportedly arrived at the rowhouses from the direction of Yarang, and parked in front of Pol Cpl Saenya’s place.  A policeman on guard duty asked the driver to move it. Instead, the two men in the truck got out and ran away. Less than two minutes later the bomb went off.

Investigators said the vehicle was a golden-bronze Isuzu with Songkhla plates, and was one of the vehicles stolen from Wangto Car Centre in Na Thawi district of Songkhla on Wednesday. 

Col Pramote Prom-in, spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4, said on Thursday that a group of armed men had stolen a total of seven pickup trucks on Wednesday – one in Pattani and then six from a used-car showroom in Songkhla. One of the men was later shot dead by police after failing to stop at a checkpoint.

He said 10 armed men held up a married couple and stole their Mazda pickup truck with Narathiwat licence plates in Yarang district of Pattani around 4.30am on Wednesday.

They used the truck to go to Songkhla, where they held up and robbed a used-car dealer in Na Thawi district of six pickup trucks around 11.30am. They also took four hostages. 

Two of the hostages were shot, and one of them died. He was Saharat Laeni, 19. The wounded man was Prathanporn Nuanlamun, 23. The other two, who escaped unhurt, were the car dealer, Thanasak Yichin, and employee Jirasak Rattaphan, Col Pramote said.

After the robbery, police quickly set up checkpoints on all possible escape routes. An armed man driving one of the stolen trucks was shot by police, who gave chase after he failed to stop in Nong Chik, Pattani.

The dead driver was carrying a pistol. He was identified later as Nu-arsan Arwae, 27, of Muang district, Pattane, the spokesman said.

He said all but one of the stolen vehicles had now been found. The one still missing was the bronze Mazda Thunder pickup truck, licence plate Bor Ngo 8378, stolen from the couple in Narathiwat.

He said fish vendors Makorsee Naepenae, 37, and his wife Maesong Jaetae, 37 were stoppd by armed men posing as security officers on a road between Nong Chik and Yarang district of Pattani early on Wednesday morning. They were tied up and left in a forest, their truck stolen.

There were unconfirmed reports the Mazda pickup had been found abandoned at a rubber plantation in Songkhla’s Saba Yoi district on Thursday.

Earlier, media reports said the armed men left with from the Songkhla showroom. The number of the stolen vehicles increased to six after authorities examined security camera footage, and found out a white Isuzu pickup with Bangkok plates was also stolen. 

The Isuzu was found abandoned at an irrigation water station in tambon Klong Maning in Muang district, Pattani, about 1am on Thursday. 

The scene of the car bomb explosion outside the police residnces in Mayo district, Pattani. (Photo by Abdulloh Benjakat)

One of the stolen pickup trucks, found abandoned in Pattani’s Muang district. This was the sixth vehicle from the car showroom, noticed missing when police examined surveillance tapes. (Photo by Abdulloh Benjakat)

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