Myanmar security forces killed three men while clearing a suspected Rohingya insurgent training camp in a mountain range in the Maungdaw-Buthidaung township area of the volatile northern part of Rakhine state, a government spokesman said Wednesday.
The armed forces discovered tunnels, weapons, huts, rations, and training materiel in camps in the township’s Mayu mountain range during a two-day security clearance operation, according to a report by the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.
“We found tunnels that are used for insurgent camps on the Mayu mountain range in Maungdaw township,” Zaw Htay, director-general of the State Counselor’s Office, told a press conference, adding that terrorists, whom the soldiers killed in self-defense, were using the site to train recruits.
He went on to say that insurgents have trained Muslims from Maungdaw and neighboring Buthidaung townships.
“We have been informed that they are trying to build a base camp in this area for terrorist attacks,” he said. “That’s why security forces went there and conducted the area clearance operation.”
The security forces invaded the area after receiving a tip-off on Tuesday that terrorist training was being conducted in the area at night.
Two of the men were shot dead after they reportedly attacked security forces with machetes, while the third was killed after a soldier “inadvertently stepped on his head, causing a struggle that ended in his death,” the Global New Light of Myanmar report said.
“It has been found that there are secret plots to carry out acts of terrorism by people who turn a blind eye to the state’s arrangements for the rule of law and peace and stability of Maungdaw and for the people of Maungdaw,” said a statement released by the State Counselor’s Office.
Border guard attacks
After a shadowy militant group that claimed to represent the country’s Muslim Rohingya community carried out deadly attacks on border guard stations in October 2016 that killed nine officers, Myanmar soldiers swept into the northern Rakhine townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung for four months to hunt down others involved in the raids.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya residents fled the area, seeking shelter in camps across the border in neighboring Bangladesh, some accusing security forces of indiscriminate murder, arson, torture, and rape in their villages during the operation.
About 1.1 million Rohingya live in Rakhine state, about 120,000 of whom are in internally displaced persons camps where they were forced to reside following communal violence with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012.
Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and denies them citizenship and access to basic services and rights.
A United Nations fact-finding mission has been set up to probe crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the security forces, though the Myanmar government has denied the accusations and opposes the mission.
Though Myanmar officially ceased its major four-month clearance operation in February, security forces remain in northern Rakhine to conduct other sweeps.
Thirty-four civilians have been killed and 22 others have gone missing in in Maungdaw township since Oct. 9, 2016, when the attacks on three local border guard posts occurred.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.