Myanmar: 28 killed in new violence in Rakhine state

Military says it killed 28 people who attacked security forces in Rakhine state as violence continues.

Myanmar Rakhine
Myanmar police patrol along the border fence between Myanmar and Bangladesh in Maungdaw district [File: Thein Zaw/AP]

Myanmar’s military says at least 28 people have been killed during renewed clashes in western Rakhine state.

The announcement on Sunday came the same day a Human Rights Watch report said satellite images appeared to show three Muslim Rohingya villages had been “burned to the ground” in recent weeks.

In a statement published online, the military said 22 attackers armed with swords were killed near Dar Gyi Zar village after they charged at soldiers, adding another six attackers were killed during clashes elsewhere in the restive state.

Al Jazeera Exclusive: Myanmar soldiers allegedly killed Rohingya villagers

Authorities have heavily restricted access to the area, which came under deadly attack last month, making it difficult to independently verify government reports or accusations of army abuse.

Northern Rakhine, which is home to the Muslim Rohingya minority and borders Bangladesh, has been under military lockdown ever since surprise raids on border posts left nine police dead last month.

Soldiers have killed several dozen people and arrested scores in their hunt for the attackers, who the government said are radicalised Rohingya people with links to foreign armed groups.

On Saturday, the military claimed two soldiers and six attackers were killed in an ambush, after helicopter gunships were deployed.

Rohingya villages burned down

The crisis and reports of grave rights abuses being carried out in tandem with the security crackdown have piled international pressure on Myanmar’s new civilian government, and raised questions about its ability to control its military.

New York-based HRW urged authorities to invite United Nations investigators to look into the destruction of a total of 430 buildings in three villages in the northern Maungdaw district between October 22 and November 10.

“New satellite images not only confirm the widespread destruction of Rohingya villages, but show that it was even greater than we first thought,” Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, said in a statement. 

According to the group, the damage took place in the villages of Pyaung Pyit, Kyet Yoe Pyin, and Wa Peik.

Rohingya people are a stateless minority whom Buddhist nationalists vilify as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh – even though many have lived in Myanmar for generations. 

The latest outbreak of violence came at a time of heightened tensions between the authorities and the ethnic Rohingya community, which has seen the government arm non-Muslim civilians in Rakhine and renewed crackdowns on the Rohingya.

Satellite images showing the three villages in Myanmar where hundreds of buildings have been burned in recent weeks [NASA/HRW]
Satellite images showing the three villages in Myanmar where hundreds of buildings have been burned in recent weeks [NASA/HRW]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies