Myanmar Rebels Claim Control Of Town, Deny Targeting Rohingya

According to estimates, the junta has lost control of about half of its 5,280 military locations. (File)

Myanmar’s powerful armed ethnic group said Sunday it had captured a town in western Rakhine state after weeks of fighting, denying accusations that it had targeted the Rohingya Muslim minority during the attacks.

Arakan Army (AA) spokesman Khaing Thu Kar said his soldiers had captured Buthidaung, near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, in a new move for the ruling junta, which is fighting rebels on multiple fronts. He said it meant defeat on the battlefield.

“We have captured all the bases in Buthidaung and captured the town yesterday,” Khanh Thu Kar told Reuters by phone.

Some Rohingya activists have accused the AA of targeting communities during attacks on Buthidaung and surrounding areas, forcing many Rohingya to flee for safety.

“AA forces entered downtown, forced people to leave their homes and started setting fires to their homes,” Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition, told Reuters, based on eyewitness accounts. Ta.

“While the town was burning, I spoke to several people I’ve known and trusted for years. They all testified that the arson attack was perpetrated by the AA.”

Reuters could not independently verify the competing accounts. A junta spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The Rohingya have faced persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades. After fleeing a military-led crackdown in 2017, nearly 1 million of them are crammed into refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, a border region of Bangladesh.

Junta’s biggest challenge

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the 2021 military coup, which sparked the rise of a resistance group fighting alongside long-established ethnic minority rebel groups.

The conflict has been escalating since October, when a coalition of ethnic militaries including the AA launched a major offensive near the Chinese border, seizing large swathes of territory from the more armed military junta, posing the biggest challenge since taking power. There is.

According to some estimates, the junta has lost control of about half of its 5,280 military locations, including outposts, bases, and headquarters.

The AA’s Khain To Kah said junta aircraft and military-aligned Islamic militant groups were attacking parts of Buthidaung, which has a population of about 55,000 people, according to the latest government census available since 2014. He said he set the fire.

“The burning of Buthidaung was due to an airstrike by military regime jet fighters before our troops entered the town,” he said.

Aung Kyaw Moe, a Rohingya civil society activist and deputy minister in Myanmar’s shadow national unity government, said Rohingya residents had been asked by the AA to leave Buthidaung but had nowhere to go, and the attack occurred. He said he was left trapped at the time.

“The town of Buthidaung continued to burn from around 10pm last night until early this morning, and now only ashes remain,” he told Reuters.

He said Rohingya residents were fleeing the scene and there could be casualties.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)