Thai soldiers are seen on alert at the remains of a traditional timber shop burnt down after insurgents bombed it overnight on May 17, 2015 in Yala, Thailand. (Faifax Media/Getty/Kyodo)

At least 15 killed in southern Thailand shooting

BANGKOK (Kyodo) -- At least 15 volunteer security personnel were killed in a gunfire attack in Thailand's troubled southern province of Yala on Tuesday night, according to authorities.

Suspected insurgents opened fire around midnight at a security checkpoint in Muang Yala, where villagers trained to help protect their communities were on duty or taking a break.

The attackers also used grenades, the authorities said.

Eleven died at the scene, and the other four victims in hospital. While it is unclear how many people were at the checkpoint, four others reportedly survived the attack.

The attackers took some weapons from the checkpoint, including shotguns, the authorities said.

The Defense Ministry condemned the attack on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who doubles as defense minister, was saddened by the loss of life, ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantrawanich said.

The prime minister has instructed officers in the area to provide initial assistance to the victims' relatives and hunt down the perpetrators, he said.

Thousands of people have been killed since an insurgency began in 2004 in the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, a predominantly Muslim region in the majority Buddhist country.