Myanmar: Rohingya Flee Deadly Clashes, Fire in Rakhine

Attacks by insurgents. A brutal military crackdown. Thousands of villagers running for their lives. History is repeating itself in Myanmar less than a year after the emergence of a new Rohingya Muslim insurgency first threatened fragile efforts to bring peace to the country’s volatile western Rakhine state.
“In the west of my direction I am seeing smoke,” a Rohingya man in his twenties, who asked not to be named for his safety, told TIME by phone Wednesday from Maungdaw town near the border with Bangladesh. “The villages are burning down.” Markets in the town had been closed, he said, and villagers were afraid of going outside for fear of soldiers.

Food was running out.

“I can hear my neighbors’ children crying,” he said.

Militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which first surfaced with deadly attacks on security forces in October 2016, stormed more than 25 police posts in the early hours of Friday, using guns, knives and improvised explosives to kill 12 people. Ensuing clashes between the group and government troops swept Rakhine state’s northern Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships, a Muslim-majority region where authorities say the group has been trying to carve out an “Islamic state.” On Twitter, the ARSA claimed the attacks were a “legitimate step” to restoring the rights of Rohingya, a stateless minority who are denied citizenship in Myanmar, confined to displacement camps and barred from moving freely.
At least 110 people were killed during the attacks, most of them insurgents, according to government figures. During ensuing clearance operations by security forces, Rohingya villagers say their homes were set on fire by soldiers, police and Buddhist mobs, and that civilians were shot at as they fled. The government has denied the allegations.

Smoke rises from what is believed to be a burning village near Maungdaw in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on Aug.

30, 2017.
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