INTERNATIONAL jihadist organisation al Qaeda has called for Muslims to support the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority of Burma (Myanmar).
Almost 400,000 stateless Rohingya asylum seekers have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh in recent weeks amid fighting in Burma’s restive Rakhine State. Al Qaeda warned that Burma would face “punishment” for its “crimes”.
The exodus of Muslim refugees from Buddhist-majority Myanmar was sparked by a fierce security force response to a series of Rohingya militant attacks on police and army posts in the country’s west on Aug 25.
The Islamist group behind the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States issued a statement urging Muslims around the world to support their fellow Muslims in Myanmar with aid, weapons and “military support.”
“The savage treatment meted out to our Muslim brothers … shall not pass without punishment,” al Qaeda said in a statement, according to the SITE monitoring group.
“The government of Myanmar shall be made to taste what our Muslim brothers have tasted.”
On Tuesday, US Senator John McCain joined a growing chorus of criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government over the situation in Rakhine, calling for the United States to end its military cooperation with Burma.
“Along with many Americans, I was encouraged by the historic 2015 elections in Burma that led to a successful transition of power to a civilian government and I was optimistic that it would provide an opportunity for greater engagement with the United States,” he said in a statement.
“The international community has called upon Aung San Suu Kyi – who has long been a source of inspiration for democracy – to stop the violence and hold human rights abusers accountable, but there has been no action to-date.”
Burma says its security forces are engaged in a legitimate campaign against the “extremist Bengali terrorists” of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) whom it blames for attacks on the police and army, and on civilians.
On Saturday, ARSA declared a ceasefire and called for Burma to allow independent international observers to assess the human rights situation in the Rakhine.
Burma has restricted the operations of many international aid agencies and has repeatedly accused NGOs of cooperating with “terrorists”.
The European Union’s aid agency said on Wednesday that while food distribution to affected populations had partly resume in central Rakhine, overall humanitarian services remained contrained.
“We call upon all mujahid brothers in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines to set out for Burma to help their Muslim brothers, and to make the necessary preparations — training and the like – to resist this oppression,” said al Qaeda on Wednesday.
The Burmese government has warned of bomb attacks in cities, and al Qaeda’s call to arms is likely to compound those concerns.
Additional reporting from Reuters.