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73,000 Rohingya flee as Myanmar govt searches for insurgents

COX'S BAZAR, BANGLADESH/YANGON Myanmar urged Muslims in the troubled north-west to cooperate in the search for insurgents, whose coordinated attacks on security posts and an army base have led to one of the deadliest bouts of violence to engulf the Rohingya community in decades.

Aid agencies estimate about 73,000 Rohingya have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh from Myanmar since violence erupted last week, Ms Vivian Tan, regional spokesman for the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR, said yesterday.

Hundreds more refugees yesterday walked through padi fields from the Naf River, which separates the two countries into Bangladesh, straining scarce resources of aid groups and local communities already helping tens of thousands.

"Islamic villagers in northern Maungdaw have been urged over loudspeakers to cooperate when security forces search for Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) extremists, and not to pose a threat or brandish weapons when security forces enter their villages," the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said yesterday.

Arsa has been declared a terrorist organisation by the government.

The group claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks on security posts last week.

ARSON

The Myanmar army wrote in a Facebook post yesterday that Rohingya insurgents had set fire to monasteries and images of Buddha as well as schools and houses in northern Rakhine.

More than 200 buildings, including houses and shops, were destroyed across several villages, it said.

While Myanmar officials blamed insurgents for the burning of the homes, Rohingya refugees and human rights watchers say the army has run a campaign of arson and killings aimed at trying to force the minority group out.

More than 11,700 "ethnic residents" had been evacuated from northern Rakhine, the government has said, referring to non-Muslims.

In Bangladesh, the authorities said at least 50 bodies of Rohingya have either been found floating in the Naf River or washed up on the beach in the past week, as tens of thousands continue to try to flee the violence. - REUTERS

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