Thai southern Muslim militants detonated at least 23 bombs simultaneously at several commercial banks in southernmost province of Yala Thursday morning, killing at least one person and injuring dozens, a military source told Xinhua.
All the bombs, mostly planted in ATM booths at the banks, were detonated by clocks between 11:30 a.m. local time (0730 GMT) to 11: 35 a.m. local time (0735 GMT).
The attacks were carried out in five districts in Yala -- 11 in the provincial capital Yala city, six in Betong district, two in Yaha district, two in Bannang Sata district and two in Raman district.
Local police said most of the injured were those who came in to withdraw cash from ATM machines since the remote-controlled bombs were installed inside of the ATM booths.
A military source told Xinhua that the militants, disguised as students, planted the home-made bombs inside the banks hours before the blasts. Most of the bombs were hidden in thick books with pages carved out, or in handbags.
The source said at least one person was killed on the spot and at least 19 seriously injured, who have been sent to Yala Provincial Hospital.
The killed was later identified as Major Sanuchart Srithong, a retired army officer.
A source from the Siam City Bank in Yala downtown told Thai newspaper the Nation that an official received a phone call, saying a bomb had been planted near the manager's room, and the caller told the bank to evacuate its employees immediately but the bomb exploded shortly after the phone was hung up.
A bank official was injured on his arm and bank customers ran for their life after the explosion, the Nation said on its website.
On Thursday afternoon, Somsak Thisarn, the manager of Siam Commercial Bank Yala branch, said the Yala Banker Association resolved to have all banks in Yala closed for a day.
Sanya Suwanpho, chairman of the Yala Teachers Federation, also said some schools decided to close for fear that militants would shift attacks to schools after the banks.
By press time, all the banks and at least five schools in Yala have decided to close.
Hours after the explosions, the military based in Thai South launched a large scale of manhunt.
Lt. Gen. Ongkorn Thongprasom, commander of the Fourth Army Area, said that all army forces in Yala had been deployed to control the situation shortly after the attacks.
Police sources said two Muslim youths have been arrested after police checked tape from security cameras of ATM booths and saw them planting the bombs.
The military and police have identified the terrorists as the members of "Bersatu" -- the United Front for the Independence of Pattani -- since Aug. 31 is the 27th anniversary of the founding of the ethnic Malay organizations. Bersatu means "United" in Malay.
Meanwhile, Thai police in nearby Songkhla's Hat Yai district, the commercial center of the South, stepped up security at the main railway station in order to prevent any untoward from incident.
More than 40 police checkpoints have been set up at the main road leading to city center. Vehicles and motorcycles are being searched thoroughly.
A week ago, some intelligence agencies have said that the Bersatu planned to launch massive attacks in Thailand's three southernmost provinces on Thursday. But sources from security agencies said they have received a tip-off that the militants would launch coordinated attacks in a few days but they expected the attacks would be carried out on Friday.
At least 1,300 people have been killed since unrest broke out in January 2004 in three predominantly Muslim provinces in the southernmost part of Thailand.