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Child killed by Myanmar police as mobs attack aid workers

Eruption in Sittwe as Buddhists riot and police fire warning shots

Child killed by Myanmar police as mobs attack aid workers

A Rakhine worker pulls a cart in Sittwe, where Buddhist mobs yesterday targeted foreign aid workers and forced police to evacuate staff (AFP Photo/Soe Than Win)

AFP, Yangon
Myanmar

March 28, 2014

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An 11-year-old girl was accidentally killed when Myanmar security forces fired warning shots to disperse mobs targeting international aid groups in a strife-hit western state, police said Friday.

The girl was shot Thursday at her home near a UN World Food Programme warehouse in the Rakhine state capital Sittwe that was targeted by rioters, Lieutenant Colonel Min Aung said by telephone.

"She was hit when security forces fired warning shots to disperse people at the WFP warehouse," he said. "The situation in Sittwe is calm now after a curfew was imposed."

He said nobody else was wounded in the incident.

The unrest began late Wednesday when hundreds of Buddhists massed around the offices of Germany-based medical aid group Malteser International in Sittwe, accusing an American aid worker of handling a religious flag in a disrespectful manner.

Humanitarian workers in the restive region have come under increasing pressure from Buddhist nationalists who accuse them of bias in favor of local Muslims.

More than 70 aid workers, including about 30 foreigners, were given police protection in the wake of the violence.

The offices of the UN refugee agency were among those attacked, according to state media.

The UN's Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Toily Kurbanov said he was "deeply concerned" by the violence, adding that the organization was "determined" to continue operating in the region.

The US embassy in Yangon issued a statement condemning the "mob violence" and confirmed that at least three of its citizens were among the aid workers given "emergency relocation".

Long-standing animosity between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine erupted into bloodshed in 2012, leaving dozens dead in clashes and around 140,000 people displaced.

Buddhist flags have been hung across the city as part of protests against Muslims in the run-up to a nationwide census that many fear could further inflame the situation in Rakhine. AFP

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