Burma: Fresh round of violence breaks out in Rakhine state
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Burma: Fresh round of violence breaks out in Rakhine state

BURMA’S (Myanmar) government said fierce fighting has broken out in the western state of Rakhine, where the army has been conducting counterinsurgency operations since nine police officers were killed in attacks on posts along the border with Bangladesh last month.

An Interior Ministry statement said government troops were ambushed Saturday morning by about 60 attackers armed with guns, knives and spears. It said at least one soldier and and six attackers died, adding that an army officer died in a later battle against 500 armed men, which ended when two air force helicopters joined the fight.

The attackers weren’t identified, but the army has aligned with Rakhine Buddhists against Muslims of the Rohingya ethnic minority since violent intercommunal conflict erupted in 2012.

A government spokesman Zaw Htay was quoted by Radio Free Asia as saying that the attacks on Saturday killed an officer and a soldier.

“A military column met about 500 villagers armed with swords and spears near Pwintbyu Chaung village and as the troops tried to confront them, terrorists hiding in nearby bushes by the roadside began firing with guns. The Commander was hit on his jaw,” he said.

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Longstanding discrimination by the Buddhist majority against Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine exploded into bloody violence in 2012. More than 100,000 people, mostly Rohingyas, are still in displacement camps.

On Friday, Zainab Hawa Bangura, the U.N.’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said she was gravely concerned by the reports and said it was essential for the government to allow humanitarian access to the area to provide support for the survivors.

Zainab’s comments follow a surge in violence by security forces, prompted by the killings of nine police officers at border posts on Oct. 9.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sunday said high-definition satellite imagery shows widespread fire-related destruction in ethnic Rohingya villages in Burma’s Rakhine State.

HRW said it identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of northern Maungdaw district from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of Oct 22, Nov 3, and Nov 10, 2016.

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It said of the total, 85 buildings were destroyed in the village of Pyaung Pyit, 245 in Kyet Yoe Pyin, and 100 in Kyee Kan Pyin, adding damage signatures in each of the assessed villages were consistent with fire, including the presence of large burn scars and destroyed tree cover.

Due to the dense tree cover, HRW said it is possible that the actual number of destroyed buildings is higher.

“New satellite images not only confirm the widespread destruction of Rohingya villages but show that it was even greater than we first thought,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW. “Burmese authorities should promptly establish a UN-assisted investigation as a first step toward ensuring justice and security for the victims.”

Adams said the Burmese government should immediately invite the United Nations to assist in investigating reported destruction of villages in the area.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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