YANGON — Security forces in western Myanmar had to open fire on rioters who burned hundreds of homes in sectarian violence that killed at least seven people, state-controlled media reported Saturday, adding that calm had been restored.
The rioting reflected long-standing tensions between Buddhist residents and Muslims, many of whom are considered to be illegal settlers from neighboring Bangladesh.
Although the root of the problem is localized — centering on resentment of the alleged cross-border outsiders — there is fear that the trouble could spread elsewhere because the split also runs along religious lines.
Saturday’s television report announced that troops reinforced police in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships in Rakhine state, where the mobs rampaged.
The state-run newspaper Myanma Ahlin said security forces opened fire to restore order.
A dusk-to-dawn curfew was applied and public gatherings of more than five people banned.
According to the television report, seven people were killed and 17 wounded in Friday’s violence. It said 494 houses, 19 shops and a guest house were burned down.
Myanma Ahlin daily reported that about 1,000 “terrorists” were responsible for the rampage, which also saw some storm Maungdaw General Hospital. State media did not otherwise identify the rioters, but the area is 90 percent Muslim, and local residents contacted by phone said the mob’s members were Muslims.
The dead were evidently all Buddhists, judging by the names of the victims. It was not clear if any of the casualties were caused by the security forces. — AP