Two bombs blast in Thailand, 21 people wounded

Two bomb blasts including one during a soccer match wounded 21 people in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south.

Two local teams were playing a friendly soccer game on a school field in Yala province when a bomb went off Sunday, injuring 17 players and spectators, three of them seriously, said police Col. Hanirut Himherb.

Hanirut said all the wounded were adults and believed to be Muslim, although this could not be immediately confirmed.

Muslim insurgents were suspected to be behind the attack, he said.

In a separate attack Sunday, a bomb exploded in southern Narathiwat province, wounding four of 12 soldiers who were on a foot patrol, said police Lt. Kanchit Keenor.

The incidents followed one of the bloodiest days in the more than three-year-old insurgency in which 2,200 people have died since early 2004.

On Thursday, 19 people died in separate attacks, including a roadside bomb which killed 11 paramilitary troops.

The bomb on the soccer field took place in the same district of Yala province as Thursday's roadside bomb.

Hanirut said the bomb may have been triggered by a digital watch, as mobile telephone signals have been cut since Thursday for security reasons. Militants in southern Thailand often use mobile telephones to trigger bomb blasts.

Meanwhile, Muslim protesters in Pattani occupied the province's central mosque for the fourth day Sunday, demanding the government withdraw soldiers from the region and lift a curfew and a state of emergency in the region.

Thailand's current, military-backed government has sought negotiations with the rebels and adopted a "hearts and minds" approach to ending the insurgency, reversing the hardline policy of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. But the response from the rebels has been an intensified campaign of violence.

Thailand is overwhelmingly Buddhist, but Muslims are a majority in the three southernmost provinces, where they have long complained of discrimination.