Sectarian bloodshed has forced women and children to flee to forests in western Myanmar after Buddhists have killed at least five Muslims.

Security forces patrolled villages on Wednesday in Rakine State, where more than 800 Buddhist rioters torched homes and attacked local Muslims a day before.

"We are doing all of this just out of our desire to protect our own religion, because we heard that a Muslim man in Thandwe abused Buddhism,” one rioter told Al Jazeera.

The violence left at least four men and a 94-year-old woman dead, a police official said.

We are doing all of this just out of our desire to protect our own religion, because we heard that a Muslim man in Thandwe abused Buddhism

Buddhist rioter


Four Rakhine Buddhists were injured in clashes and a fifth was missing, while 59 houses and a mosque have been torched since tensions flared on Saturday, police said.

"The police are merely shooting into the air and not doing enough to prevent the violence," a resident told Al Jazeera.

President's visit

The religious bloodshed coincided with President Thein Sein's two-day tour in the violence-racked area as part of his first official visit to Rakhine state since a wave of violence erupted there last year.

About 250 people have been killed and more than 140,000 left homeless in several outbreaks of inter-religious violence around the country since June 2012, mostly in Rakhine.

In a message to a multi-faith conference, which was carried in state media on Wednesday, Thein Sein lamented "instigations fuelling minor crimes into conflicts between the two communities and two religions".

The recent unrest has overshadowed internationally praised political reforms and increased pressure on the former military government general, who took power in 2011.

The United States said it was "deeply concerned" about the latest unrest and urged authorities to respond "decisively", in a statement issued by its embassy in Yangon.

The region is home to the popular tourist destination of Ngapali Beach although no foreigners were believed to have been caught up in the unrest.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies