Rohingya insurgents ambush Myanmar military truck, five wounded

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A Rohingya refugee girl reacts as she waits for a medical check-up at Kutupalong refugee camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on Friday. — Reuters

YANGON — Rohingya Muslim insurgents ambushed a military vehicle in Myanmar's Rakhine State, wounding five members of the security forces, state media and officials said, and the rebels claimed responsibility for the rare attack.

A wave of raids by the insurgents on security force posts on Aug. 25 sparked sweeping army counter-insurgency operations in the Muslim-majority north of the state that led to widespread violence and arson and an exodus of some 650,000 Rohingya villagers to neighboring Bangladesh.

The United Nations condemned the Myanmar military campaign as ethnic cleansing. Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejected that. But since Aug. 25, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgents, who claimed responsibility for the coordinated raids on 30 security posts, have mounted only a few sporadic attacks.

The military said "extremist Bengali terrorists ARSA" carried out the Friday attack on a truck taking someone to hospital. "A vehicle ... was attacked by 20 insurgents from the mountain using homemade mines and small arms," the government said. The military said there were about 10 attackers.

An ARSA spokesman said his group had carried out the attack. "Yes, ARSA takes responsibility for the latest military movement," the spokesman told Reuters through a messaging service. He said further details may be revealed later.

The ARSA dismisses any links to militant groups and says it is fighting to end the oppression of the Rohingya people.

The Yangon-based Frontier Myanmar magazine quoted a resident of a nearby village as saying sporadic gunfire had been heard at the time of the ambush. A state-run newspaper reported on Saturday that fighting continued after the ambush. The area is largely off-limits to reporters.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have been discussing a plan to repatriate the Rohingya refugees but more insecurity in Myanmar is likely to raise doubts about how quickly that might take place.

On Friday, Myanmar's military has used heavy weapons to overrun remote rebel camps in northern Kachin state, the army as a seasonal offensive ramps up the long-running conflict.

But the conflict in Kachin, a mainly Christian state in the Buddhist-majority country, has rumbled on away from international headlines and fighting is again intensifying now that monsoon rains have ended.

The army — or Tatmadaw — said it had gained the upper hand after seizing 22 camps of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) since mid-November and blocking off a key timber smuggling route to China.

Heavy weapons were used Thursday to attack hillside camps as the army killed "some enemies" and seized arms and ammunition, according to a statement posted on Facebook by the office of commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.

"Tatmadaw columns are in hot pursuit of fleeing terrorist insurgents," the statement added. The rebels and the army trade allegations of abuses, while observers accuse both sides of trafficking timber, jade and drugs to fund the fighting.

After a 17-year ceasefire, the KIA restarted its fight for autonomy in 2011 resulting in unrest that has killed hundreds and displaced more than 100,000 people.

The KIA confirmed the renewed hostilities were "very serious" and that the military was using airstrikes and heavy artillery against its positions. "Our ethnic groups didn't launch the offensive. It was the military. We are only fighting back," KIA spokesman Lt. Col. Naw Buu said, also denying rebel involvement in the illegal timber trade. — Agencies


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