Rohingya militants deny links to Al Qaeda, Islamic State
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Rohingya militants deny links to Al Qaeda, Islamic State

THE ROHINGYA militant group fighting the Tatmadaw military of Burma (Myanmar) in the country’s northern Rakhine State has rejected accusations that it is linked to international jihadist organisations.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) issued a statement via its Twitter account on Wednesday in which it “categorically” denied any ties with transnational terror groups, amid fighting against security forces in Rakhine State.

“ARSA feels that it is necessary to make it clear that it has no links with Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Lashkar-e-Taiba or any transnational terrorist group, and we do not welcome the involvement of these groups in the Arakan conflict,” it said.

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International jihadist group Al Qaeda earlier this week called for Muslims worldwide to “punish” Burma for “crimes” against the Rohingya Muslim minority by supporting the struggle with weapons and “military support.”

“We do not welcome the involvement of these groups in the Arakan conflict,” added the statement from ARSA. “ARSA calls on states in the region to intercept and prevent terrorists from entering Arakan and making a bad situation worse.” Arakan is the former name for Rakhine State.

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A Rohingya refugee arrives wait at Thaingkhali makeshift refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, September 14, 2017. Source: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Renewed violence has gripped Burma’s northern Rakhine State since ARSA militants allegedly attacked the outposts of security forces on Aug 25. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) now reports at least 380,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past three weeks.

Presidential office spokesman Zaw Htay claimed on Thursday that Islamic State was “already active” in Asia along with a link to an article from the Atlantic Treaty Association.

The Burmese government has consistently branded the ARSA “extremist Bengali terrorists” and has accused international aid organisations of aiding terrorism. On September 10, ARSA declared a one-month ceasefire to which the government responded it did not negotiate with terrorists.

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Burma’s ambassador to Washington Aung Lynn told Voice of America on Thursday that the country was the victim of “false media.”

“How can you say that [the response] is out of proportion? There may be many terrorists who were involved,” he said. “I don’t want to argue with the numbers, but if people are innocent, innocent villagers, they have no reason to flee away from their villages.”

ARSA’s statement on Wednesday said “it is prepared to work with security agencies to support counter-terrorism efforts in the region in order to prevent the infiltration of terrorist groups into Arakan.”