Myanmar’s Rakhine state was hit by fresh waves of violence over the weekend with more than 30 insurgents killed over two-days of fighting, the military said, as fears soar for the strife-torn region. Northern Rakhine, which is home to the Muslim Rohingya minority and borders Bangladesh, has been under military lockdown ever since surprise raids on border posts left nine police dead last month.
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Soldiers have killed scores and arrested many more in their hunt for the attackers, who the government says are radicalised Rohingya militants with links to overseas Islamists. The crisis and reports of grave rights abuses being
carried out in tandem with the security crackdown have piled international pressure on Myanmar’s new civilian government and raised questions about its ability to control the military.
Days of apparent calm were shattered yesterday when the army said six attackers and two soldiers were killed during a series of coordinated ambushes that were only beaten back with the help of helicopter gunships. The toll then jumped today following further clashes. In a statement Myanmar’s military said 22 attackers armed with swords were killed near Dar Gyi Zar village on today morning after they charged at soldiers.
Six other insurgents were killed during clashes elsewhere in the state today, the statement added. Authorities have heavily restricted access to the area, making it difficult to independently verify government reports or accusations of army abuse. Yesterday evening, Rohingya activists uploaded a graphic video showing the corpses of eight people dressed in civilian clothes, including a small baby.
The video’s shooter, speaking in Rohingya, said the victims died that day near Dar Gyi Zar village, with some
showing bullet wounds. It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the footage. The resurgence of violence in western Rakhine has deepened and complicated a crisis that already posed a critical challenge to the new administration led by democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.
The state has sizzled with religious tension ever since waves of violence between the majority Buddhist population and the Muslim Rohingya left more than 200 dead in 2012. More than 100,000 people, mostly Rohingya, were pushed into displacement camps by the bloodshed and have languished there ever since. (