BEIRUT

Middle East

Ten hurt, mosque attacked in Myanmar unrest: govt

A woman collects bricks and other useful items from burnt Muslim homes in Meikhtila April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

YANGON: Ten people were injured and police fired warning shots as a mob attacked a mosque in central Myanmar on Tuesday, authorities said, in the latest religious unrest to hit the country.

Fighting in the small town of Oakkan, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Yangon, was sparked after a woman bumped into a young novice monk knocking his alms bowl onto the ground, according to a Myanmar state television announcement.

It is the latest unrest to flare in the region north of Yangon, Myanmar's main city, after a series of attacks by Buddhist mobs on Muslim homes, businesses and mosques in March.

"Security forces had to fire warning shots to disperse the crowd as they threw stones at a religious building, destroyed the facades of shops and dragged things out of the premises in Oakkan town," said the evening bulletin.

"During the clash, ten people were injured, eight of whom had minor injuries," it said.

Earlier, presidential spokesman Ye Htut posted on his Facebook page that a mosque had been attacked, adding calm had been restored.

The state television announcement, which was also published on the information ministry website, said 25 shops and a "religious building" were attacked. It made no mention of arrests over the violence.

At least 43 people were killed and thousands were left homeless in March in fighting apparently triggered by a quarrel between a Muslim gold shop owner and Buddhist customers in the central town of Meiktila.

Some monks were involved in the clashes while others are behind a nationalistic campaign calling for a boycott of Muslim-owned shops.

The unrest has exposed deep religious tensions in the formerly junta-run nation and cast a shadow over reforms under a quasi-civilian regime that took power two years ago.

Last year around 200 people were killed in clashes between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya -- a minority treated with hostility by many Burmese who see them as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

While the Rohingya -- described by the UN as among the most-persecuted minorities on the planet -- have long been denied Myanmar citizenship, the Muslims targeted in March's unrest are Myanmar nationals.

Human Rights Watch last week accused authorities of being involved in "ethnic cleansing" in Rakhine -- a claim the government denies.

An official report into the unrest this week suggested doubling the security presence in the state and recommended keeping the communities apart as a temporary measure to prevent further violence.

 

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