Six Myanmar army soldiers and a civilian driver were injured in an ambush on a military vehicle near Taungbyo in northern Rakhine state on Friday, underscoring ongoing instability in the area in the wake of a brutal military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, local residents said.
A truck from Infantry No. 124 hit a landmine near Tarein, an ethnic Rakhine village in Maungdaw township, as it traveled to Taungbyo, sources said.
A border police officer told the online journal The Irrawaddy that the soldiers were escorting a sick army officer in a civilian vehicle to Maungdaw for medical treatment. The ill officer was not injured in the explosion.
“Around 9:20 a.m., a landmine explosion hit the tire on a military truck,” said Eain Sor Maung, the head of Tarein village south of Taunbyo. “When the truck stopped, a group shot at the truck, and seven people, including the driver and a major, were injured.”
The injured were taken to a hospital in neighboring Buthidaung township, sources said.
“The military is checking and clearing this area now,” he said.
The blast was followed by about 15 minutes of gunfire by the group from a nearby hill, though no one suffered further injury, The Irrawaddy said.
The government military accused the militant Muslim group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) of carrying out the attack, though ARSA has not made any statement confirming it.
ARSA conducted deadly raids on border guard stations in October 2016 and on police outposts in August 2017 in northern Rakhine state.
The attacks sparked two military crackdowns targeting the Rohingya, who endured indiscriminant killings, rape, torture, and arson. About 655,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to escape the violence that the United Nations and other Western countries say amount to ethnic cleansing.
Muslim militants have also been accused of attacking Hindu villages in northern Rakhine state and planning and carrying out further armed assaults against security forces, usually at night.
The border police officer who spoke to The Irrawaddy speculated that an ethnic Rakhine armed group had ambushed the vehicle and soldiers, because the attack occurred near a Rakhine village during the daytime.
On Dec. 8, four Myanmar army soldiers were injured when their convoy hit three mines in Myebon township just an hour after Rakhine's Chief-Minister Nyi Pu and government officials traveled through the same area. It was not known who may have planted the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or what their motive may have been.
Though Myanmar plans to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh during the crackdowns later this month, rights groups have warned that the untenable situation on the ground and continued discrimination against the group may not bode well for those who voluntarily return.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.