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Myanmar government accused of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims

The human rights group said police are targeting the Rohingya through looting, murder and destruction of homes and mosques.

By Ed Adamczyk
Myanmar government accused of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims
Amnesty international accused the Myanmar police and military of crimes against humanity in the treatment of their country's minority Muslim Rohingya population. Photo courtesy of Amnesty International

LONDON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya minority is facing crimes against humanity committed by authorities, Amnesty International warned.

The London-based human rights organization accused Myanmar police and military personnel of murder, torture, rape and looting in a report. It said an operation of ethnic cleansing began after border police were attacked by a militant group largely composed of Rohingya. The army then launched an anti-insurgency operation in late October, and has denied any atrocities, saying instead it is conducting anti-terrorist actions in western Myanmar's Rakhine province.

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Anecdotal evidence obtained through interviews by Amnesty International said random killings, and destruction of property, including the burning of over 1,200 homes, mosques and schools, constitute "a widespread and systematic attack against the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine state and may therefore constitute crimes against humanity."

The activist group Human Rights Watch has published satellite images of destroyed Rohingya villages. Witnesses told Amnesty International of incidents including helicopter gunships firing randomly at fleeing Rohingya villagers.

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"The Burmese military has targeted Rohingya civilians in a callous and systematic campaign of violence," said Amnesty International's Rafendi Djamin. "Men, women, children, whole families and entire villages have been attacked and abused, as a form of collective punishment. The deplorable actions of the military could be part of a widespread and systematic attack on a civilian population and may amount to crimes against humanity."

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An estimated 27,000 Rohingya attempted to escape to adjacent Bangladesh in October, straining border communities. Amnesty International accused the Bangladeshi government of turning refugees away at the border. It called on an end to violence and an investigation by the United Nations.

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