Large numbers of police have been deployed and a curfew imposed in Myanmar’s second largest city in an attempt to bring escalating violence in the area under control.

Myanmar police escalated tactics in Mandalay on Thursday, after consecutive nights of sectarian unrest left two people dead.

Local residents say a Muslim man was attacked and killed by a mob as he made his way to a mosque before dawn on Thursday morning.

A Buddhist man was also killed overnight, with police investigating the cause of death.

The riots left another 14 injured.

Police were first deployed on Tuesday night, as hundreds of Buddhists attacked a mosque and attempted to set fire to businesses owned by Muslims. Vehicles were set on fire and some shops were ransacked.

Shops in Muslim neighbourhoods are now closed, with some streets blocked by metal and wooden barriers. One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said, "most Muslims are hiding and some shifted to other towns near Mandalay".

"We do not want the situation getting worse," senior Mandalay police officer Zaw Min Oo told AFP, explaining that the curfew now imposed on the city was for 'security reasons'.

Escalating violence

The violence was sparked by rumours on the Internet that the Muslim owner of a teashop had raped a Buddhist woman.

The latest flare up of sectarian violence in Myanmar has raised fears of a wider escalation in ongoing tensions between Myanmar’s Buddhist majority and Muslim minority.

Previously, sectarian violence had mostly taken place in Myanmar’s Western Rakhine state, while relations between Muslims and Buddhists in the city of Mandalay had been relatively peaceful.

Myanmar has struggled to contain outbreaks of anti-Muslim violence since the end of military rule in 2011. At least 280 people have been killed since June 2012, with 140,000 made homeless - most of them Muslims.

Muslims are thought to account for about four percent of Myanmar’s population of approximately 60 million.

The government has faced international criticism for failing to act strongly to stop the attacks on Muslims, which in Rakhine state reportedly occurred as security forces looked on.

Myanmar has been wracked by violence between the two communities since June 2012. More than 200 people have been killed and at least 140,000 displaced. Most of the victims have been Muslim.

Source: Agencies