YANGON — As many as 69 members of what Myanmar’s government has described as a Rohingya Muslim militant group and 17 security forces have been killed in a recent escalation of fighting in northwestern Rakhine State, the army said on Tuesday.
The death toll, announced in the state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar daily, exceeded that reported by state media over the weekend, demonstrating the scale of the largest escalation of the conflict since violence erupted a month ago.
Diplomats and observers have held out hope that the military will swiftly conclude its “clearance operation” in the troubled north of Rakhine, but the recent wave of killings has cast a doubt over such prospects.
The violence is the most serious since hundreds were killed in communal clashes in Rakhine in 2012.
It has sharpened the tension between Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s six-month-old civilian administration and the army, which ruled for decades and retains key powers, including control of ministries responsible for security.
Soldiers have moved into the area along Myanmar’s frontier with Bangladesh, responding to coordinated attacks on three border posts on Oct. 9 that killed nine police officers.
They have locked down the area, where the vast majority of residents are Rohingya Muslims, shutting out aid workers and independent observers, and conducted sweeps of villages. A series of skirmishes and attacks during the six days to Monday had led “to the death of 69 violent attackers and the arrest of 234,” the military’s True News Information Team said.
Ten policemen and seven soldiers died in the clashes, it added.
The announcement takes to 102 the tally of deaths of suspected Rohingya Muslim attackers since Oct.9, while the security forces’ toll stands at 32, Reuters has estimated from reports by state-owned media. Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims are the majority in northern Rakhine but are denied citizenship, with many of the country’s Buddhists regarding them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. They face severe travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, three cows stranded on a small island of land after a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked New Zealand have been led to safety by a team of rescuers, media said on Tuesday.
The cows’ plight went viral on Monday after video shot from a helicopter showed them huddled on an elevated patch of grass near Kaikoura, about 150 km northeast of Christchurch. The ground around them had apparently shifted or collapsed during the tremor.
The farmer, who said the cows were part of a group of 14 he rescued, worked with a team to dig a path for the cattle to escape after determining the land was safe, Newshub said.
“The soil was quite soft because it had all been tipped over and bumbled around, we managed to get a track in and bring them out,” the unnamed farmer said.
“They desperately needed water…and I think one or two had lost calves in the earthquake so they were a bit distressed.”
Kaikoura was completely cut off by massive landslips following the tremor, which struck just after midnight on Sunday, destroying homesteads and cutting road and rail links throughout the northeast of the South Island.
“We did lose stock. The whole hillside fell during the earthquake and we had a lot of stock on there – we don’t know what we’ve got,” the farmer said. — Reuters
Source by: saudigazette.com