Pope Francis strongly criticised atrocities, including mass killings and gang rapes, committed against Rohingya Muslims.

Condemning the torture and killings committed by Myanmar's security forces that - according to a UN report - possibly amount to ethnic cleansing, Francis said in a statement on Wednesday that Rohingya Muslims were targeted "simply because they want to live their culture and their Muslim faith".

In a UN report made public last week, 204 Rohingya refugees who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh were interviewed for first-hand accounts.

They revealed grave violations allegedly carried out by members of Myanmar's security forces, or by civilians working alongside them.

READ MORE: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar tell of trauma

Security forces in Myanmar reportedly burned down entire villages and opened fire at people fleeing burning homes.

According to the report, the army has also been accused of "massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food".

About 65,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since October 2016, following a deadly attack on a military post that resulted in a security crackdown against the minority group.

Myanmar's army had launched clearance operations while searching for fighters behind deadly raids on police borders last year.

Human rights groups say the military operation has been abusive enough to be categorised as crimes against humanity.

Myanmar: Displaced Rohingya reliant on aid shipments

Source: News agencies