A series of attacks on Myanmar government forces claimed by Rohingya fighters left dozens of people dead, Myanmar officials said.
The raids took place on 30 posts on the Bangladesh frontier in the Maungdaw district and left a Myanmar solider, 10 police and an immigration official dead, the Office of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said in a statement. Seventy-seven Rohingya militants also died.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an insurgent group seeking to create a democratic Muslim state for the ethnic group, said it carried out the attacks in response to “atrocities” and a blockade carried out by the government against Rohingya people. The group said the blockade is starving people to death.
“Over the last two days, Burmese security forces along with some Rakhine extremists killed over a dozen people in the township,” the ARSA statement said, using an alternate name for Mynanmar forces. “As they prepare to do the same in Maungdaw, and conducted raids and committed atrocities in some Rohingya villages in the township last night, we had to eventually step up in order to drive the Burmese colonizing forces away.
The Myanmar government said it captured two Rohingya fighters and instituted a nighttime curfew in the district.
The raids came hours after a commission led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, urged the Myanmar government to halt restrictions against about 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
International advocacy groups have accused the government of a crackdown against the Rohingya ethnic minority group. U.N. estimates indicate hundreds have been killed, about 66,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh and about 22,000 are displaced within Myanmar. Security forces are accused of mass gang rapes, killings of several hundred people, beatings, disappearances and burning of villages, a recent U.N. report noted.
The government maintains that the Rohingya Muslims are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, calling them “Bengali.”
The current U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, condemned the attacks on Myanmar security forces Friday.
“The secretary-general has been closely following developments in Rakhine State and is concerned over the escalating tensions in the region. He reiterates the importance of addressing the root causes of violence, in particular issues related to identity and citizenship, and reducing intercommunal tensions. He strongly urges all the communities in Rakhine state to choose the path of peace,” his office said in a statement.
“The secretary-general stresses that, while taking the necessary measures to curb attacks by criminal elements in the region, the security forces must protect civilians at all times, in line with international humanitarian and human rights law.”
By Danielle Haynes