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Thousands of civilians flee fighting

Zoom  Zoom Issue Date:2017-08-31   Browse:487
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh - Thousands of civilians fled the worst fighting to grip Myanmar's northwest in five years, with 104 people killed and the United Nations and international aid groups forced to pull out some staff.
The mass escape from the northern part of Rakhine state came as extremists continued coordinated attacks on police outposts.
The State Counselor's Office on Monday accused them of attempting to destroy towns by setting them on fire.
Authorities said hundreds of terrorists detonated improvised bombs, setting several villages on fire, and attacked more than 10 police outposts in Maungtaw.
The violence marks a dramatic escalation of a conflict that has simmered in the region since last October.
Thousands of Rohingya - mostly women and children - fleeing the violence sought to ford the Naf river separating Myanmar and Bangladesh and cross the land border.
However, they were prevented from moving farther by Bangladeshi border guards. Lieutenant Colonel Manzurul Hasan Khan of Border Guards Bangladesh said they cordoned off about 1,000 Rohingya after they attempted to enter Bangladesh.
Reuters reporters saw dozens of Rohingya women seated in a cramped area under a few black plastic sheets shielding them from the harsh sun. Gunfire rang out on the Myanmar side of the border on Saturday and Sunday.
In Myanmar, the UN and international aid agencies withdrew some staff from the area, after the government said it was investigating whether members of aid groups had been involved in an alleged siege by the insurgents of a village in August.
The state has provided security to aid workers, but "no one can fully guarantee safety," said Nyi Pu, chief minister of Rakhine.
"If they want to stay, we will give security as best as we can. If they don't want to stay, due to their safety concerns, and want to leave, we told them that we will help them."
Doctor Win Myat Aye, union minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement, said security was being increased, with additional military personnel being deployed.
The military reported several weekend clashes involving hundreds of Rohingya insurgents across Rakhine.
"Extremist terrorists blew out improvised bombs, set fire to villages and attacked the police outposts in Maungtaw," the State-run Global New Light of Myanmar daily said on Monday.
The government reported at least 104 deaths, the vast majority militants, plus 12 members of security forces and several civilians.
The government declared the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which claimed responsibility for the offensive, a terrorist organization.
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