Two soldiers hold hostage by Muslim villagers after shooting in southern Thailand

Thai Muslim villagers held two soldiers hostage at a school Wednesday after accusing them of killing two people and wounding three in a shooting at a tea shop in insurgency-plagued, officials said.

The villagers say the two marines were among assailants armed with assault rifles who opened fire at the tea shop in Tanyonglimo village on Tuesday evening but the military denied the two men were involved.

Hundreds of angry villagers bound and gagged the two marines before holding them hostage at a school, and initial attempts to negotiate their release failed, said Narathiwat province Gov. Pracha Terat.

Villagers held placards in the local dialect of Malay, attacking the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. "Evil has spread since Thaksin's party came to power. Ethnic Malay people have been cruelly killed by soldiers. They are the real terrorists," the placards read.

The regional army spokesman, Col. Somkuan Saengpataranetr, denied that the soldiers were involved in the shooting. Somkuan said two of the five villagers who were shot Tuesday evening have died.

Southern Thailand has been wracked by a separatist insurgency in which more than 1,000 Buddhists and Muslims have died over the past 21 months.

The governor said the situation was tense, with the villagers asking Malaysian reporters to come and report on the situation since they didn't trust the Thai media. More than 100 security personnel were rushed to the scene while some 500 villagers, mostly women and children, sealed the route into the area, Pracha said, reports the AP.

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