Myanmar tensions: Police killed in Rakhine militant attack

At least 32 people, including 11 security personnel, have been killed in militant attacks on police posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the army says.

More than 20 posts were targeted by Muslim militants in pre-dawn raids, the government said, in Rakhine’s worst violence for months.

Rakhine has been hit by clashes between Muslim and Buddhist communities.

The attacks come a day after a report warned more people would be radicalised if ethnic tensions were not addressed.

Rakhine state, in western Myanmar, is home to more than a million Rohingya Muslims. Tensions with the majority Buddhist population have been rumbling for years, and tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, accusing Myanmar authorities of ethnic persecution.

A government statement said that “extremist Bengali insurgents attacked a police station in Maungdaw region in northern Rakhine state with a handmade bomb explosive and held co-ordinated attacks on several police posts at 01:00”.

The government uses the term “Bengali” to describe the stateless Rohingya, because it maintains they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The army’s Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing said in a statement on Facebook that one soldier, 10 policemen and 21 militants died in the attacks. As many as 150 militants are said to have been involved.

Bangladesh’s border guard service says it has sent back almost 150 Rohingya who have tried to cross into Bangladesh since the raids. It also said security was being beefed up along the border in the wake of the attacks.

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This is the most significant outbreak of violence in Rakhine since October 2016, when nine policemen died in similar attacks on border posts.

That triggered a military crackdown that led to widespread allegations of killings, rape and torture of Rohingya, and an exodus of Rohingya into Bangladesh. The UN is currently investigating alleged human rights abuses by the security forces, who deny wrongdoing.

On Thursday, former UN chief Kofi Annan warned in a report that a “calibrated response” combining political, security and economic initiatives was needed in Rakhine state to reduce ethnic tensions and prevent violence escalating.

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