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Six Rohingya killed in Rakhine helicopter attack

Myanmar military claims that Muslim villagers were with Arakan Army members in Buthidaung

Six Rohingya killed in Rakhine helicopter attack

A file image of a Myanmar air force helicopter landing at Sittwe airport in Sittwe capital of Rakhine State on Oct. 13, 2016. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

At least six Rohingya villagers were killed and 13 injured by a Myanmar military helicopter attack in Rakhine State.

A Rohingya resident in a village in Buthidaung township said he heard the sound of a flying helicopter around 2 p.m. on April 3.

He said six Rohingya died and 13 were admitted to a hospital in Buthidaung following the attack that came as dozens of Rohingya laborers were cutting bamboo near Saidin waterfall.

“There was no fighting between the military and the Arakan Army, but Rohingya villagers were shot,” the resident told ucanews.com.

Hla Tun Kyaw, the ethnic Rakhine MP for the constituency in Maungdaw township in northern Rakhine, confirmed the news, citing sources from regional lawmakers and villagers.

He said the military appeared to be suspicious of Rohingya villagers who earn a living by cutting and collecting bamboo.

“We are very concerned about the safety and security of civilians because the death toll has been increasing as fighting has intensified in Rakhine,” Hla Tun Kyaw told ucanews.com.

Myanmar’s military released a statement on April 4 that security forces received a tip that about 150 Arakan Army members were operating close to the village, so they carried out security operations in the area.

“In the fighting, six Muslims who were with the Arakan Army group were killed,” the statement said.

The statement said nine insurgents were injured in the clash and were receiving treatment at the Tatmadaw hospital in Buthidaung, where they are being interrogated.

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Ethnically and religiously divided Rakhine came under the global spotlight after the military’s bloody crackdown in August 2017 that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh.

More than 16,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as fighting has raged in recent weeks between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army.

The Arakan Army is a largely Buddhist militia fighting for greater autonomy in Rakhine, where there is also a conflict between government forces and Muslim Rohingya.

Fighting in conflict-torn Rakhine has spread since January from the north to Mrauk-U and the outskirts of Sittwe, the state’s capital city. It has claimed at least 24 civilians lives, while dozens are reported missing and dozens of policemen have been killed.

Humanitarian groups say that at least 95,000 people can no longer access basic and essential services as a result of ban on humanitarian aid to the townships in Rakhine.

“Health care services, education and access to clean water have all been jeopardized. Livelihood programs, agricultural support and other development efforts have also been suspended, impacting the food security and wellbeing of these communities,” 16 international NGOs said in a statement on April 1.

The groups, including Save the Children and Oxfam, said the conflict is causing “civilian casualties, displacing communities and worsening the already precarious humanitarian situation in central and northern Rakhine State.”

They urged all parties to the conflict “to ensure the protection of civilians in compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law.”

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