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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Ethnic Rohingya fleeing Myanmar carry an elderly man after crossing into the Bangladesh side of the border on Friday. Myanmar's military says almost 400 people have died in recent violence.

Saturday, September 02, 2017 1:00 am

Myanmar military puts death toll at nearly 400

Associated Press

TEKNAF, Bangladesh – Almost 400 people have died in violence in western Myanmar that was triggered by attacks on security forces by insurgents from the Rohingya ethnic minority, Myanmar's military said, as both sides exchanged charges of atrocities and thousands of Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh.

The death toll, posted on the Facebook page of Myanmar's military commander Friday, is a sharp increase over the previously reported number of just over 100. The statement said all but 29 of the 399 dead were insurgents.

The statement said there had been 90 armed clashes, including an initial 30 attacks by insurgents Aug. 25, making the combat more extensive than previously announced.

The army, responding to the attacks, launched what it called clearance operations against the insurgents.

Advocates for the Rohingya, an oppressed Muslim minority in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar, say security forces and vigilantes attacked and burned villages, shooting civilians and causing others to flee.

Hundreds of civilians were killed, they say, posting photos, videos and details on social media as evidence.

The government blames the insurgents for burning their own homes and killing Buddhists in Rakhine.

Estimates from local and police officials, intelligence sources and Rohingya leaders suggest at least 40,000 have crossed into Bangladesh. In the first six days after the Aug. 25 attacks, the International Organization for Migration said at least 18,000 Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh.

On Thursday, three boats with refugees capsized in the Naf River, killing at least 26, including women and children, police said.

Bangladeshi border guards have tried to keep them out, but usually relent when pressured, and thousands could be seen Friday making their way across muddy rice fields. Young people helped carry the elderly, some on makeshift stretchers, and children carried newborns.

Some, carrying bundles of clothes, cooking utensils and small solar panels, said they had walked at least three days to get to the border.