PATTANI, Thailand, March 30, 2009 (AFP) - Suspected separatist militants shot dead a Muslim couple in troubled southern Thailand Monday, while four insurgents and a villager were killed in other violence, police said.
The couple were riding on a motorcycle to a food market in the troubled town of Pattani -- one of the worst hit areas in the Muslim-majority region -- when they were killed in a drive-by shooting, said police.
Also on Monday, security forces fought a 20-minute gun battle with suspected militants during a search of a house in nearby Narathiwat province, police said.
Four rebels were killed and two were arrested, while a ranger was injured, they said.
In the same area, gunmen shot dead a 40-year-old Muslim villager as he walked home from a mosque after daily prayers.
More than 3,600 people have been killed and thousands more injured in five years of separatist violence in Thailand's Muslim-majority provinces near the Malaysian border.
Buddhist-majority Thailand annexed the ethnic Malay area in 1902, sparking decades of tension.