At least 71 people, including 12 Myanmar government troops, were killed when militants claiming to fight for the political rights of the oppressed Rohingya Muslims staged attacks on more than two dozen border posts in northern Rakhine State, triggering a new wave of refugees to Bangladesh, officials said Friday.
It was the deadliest single-day toll since fighting between the rebel group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and security forces erupted last October, killing nine policemen and setting off a counter-insurgency campaign by the authorities.
Among the dead were one security staffer, 10 policemen, a deputy township officer and 59 militants, according to a statement issued by the office of Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Eleven people were injured in the attacks, three of them seriously, and one “terrorist” was arrested, it said. The statement did not mention how many militants were involved in the attack.
On its Facebook page, Aung San Suu Kyi’s office said the deadly attacks were intended to coincide with Thursday’s release of a report by the Rakhine Advisory Commission led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which recommended that the government act quickly to improve economic development and social justice in Rakhine state to end the violence between ethnic Buddhists and the Mulsim Rohingyas.
“The military and police personnel are fighting back against extremist Bengali terrorists,” military chief Min Aung Hlaing said on Facebook, using a term used by the government to describe the stateless Rohingyas, because it maintains they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
“It is clear that today’s attacks are a calculated attempt to undermine the efforts of those seeking to build peace and harmony in Rakhine state,” Aung San Suu Kyi said. “We must not allow our work to be derailed by the violent actions of extremists.”
ARSA took responsibility for the attacks on 30 border posts, saying they were launched in defense of Rohingya communities that had been allegedly brutalized by government forces.
“Burma has been ramping up military in Arakan state since last few weeks in order to derail the ‘Kofi Annan Commission Report and Recommendations’ by triggering an unrest in the state,” ARSA said on its Twitter page. “Therefore, we have tried our best to avoid any potential conflict meanwhile.”
It accused the military and security forces deployed in two areas of molesting Rohingya women while carrying out raids, killings and lootings in many Rohingya villages across the townships.
Full story: BenarNews
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Jesmin Papri and Pulack Ghatack in Dhaka and Abdur Rahman in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh contributed to this report.
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