Clashes between government forces and members of an Islamic terror group in northwestern Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state over the last week have left at least 30 fighters dead, the country’s top police officer said on Monday.
“We now have 30 insurgents dead and 29 captured alive,” national police chief Zaw Win told reporters in the former capital Naypyidaw on Oct. 17.
It was not immediately clear how many of that number were killed in initial attacks by Muslim fighters on three Myanmar border posts near Bangladesh on Oct. 9, and how many were killed in follow-up operations as police conducted house-to-house security sweeps.
Last week’s raids, in which nine border officers and eight attackers died, later triggered further clashes as soldiers and police carried out searches of Muslim neighborhoods in Maungdaw township, where they were confronted by residents armed with guns, swords, and knives.
At least four Muslims were killed during security operations on Oct. 10, according to earlier reports.
Also speaking to reporters on Monday, Myanmar Information Minister Pe Myint said that anyone found to have taken part in the fighting would be dealt with “according to law.”
“We will take action against anyone involved in these attacks according to Myanmar’s laws and international law,” he said.
“All villages in the area of the attacks should enjoy rule of law and be governed by regular administrative mechanisms. We should also have more money in the [national] budget go toward building a more secure fence between Myanmar and Bangladesh,” he said.
'Extremist, violent ideology'
Interrogations of captured attackers have revealed that the Oct. 9 attacks were carried out by Aqa Mul Mujahidin, an Islamic organization active in Muslim-majority Maungdaw, according to a statement issued last week by the office of Myanmar’s president Htin Kyaw.
"The attacks in Maungdaw were intended to promote extremist violent ideology among the majority Muslim population in the area," the statement said.
The government of Bangladesh is now in regular contact with Myanmar authorities, U Kyaw Tint Swe, a representative of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Monday.
“They have said they will support us in whatever we need [regarding security on the border],” he said.
Civil society organizations in Myanmar have meanwhile urged authorities in Rakhine state to set up safe housing for the more than 2,000 Rakhine residents displaced by the fighting in Maungdaw.
Over 600 are now staying in the state capital Sittwe, with another 500 camped outside Maungdaw and over a thousand in Buthidaung township.
“If they are now so far away from their homes, it will be difficult for them to return,” CSO representative Than Tun told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Monday. “That is why we have urged that camps be set up near Maungdaw for all IDPs [internally displaced persons].”
Also speaking to RFA, Saw Nu Phyu, a resident of Aungmingalar Village in Maungdaw, voiced reluctance to return.
“If there is danger in our village, we will not go home,” he said.
Reported by Win Naung Toe and Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.