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U.N. fears as many as 30 Rohingya killed in Myanmar assault

By Clyde Hughes
U.N. fears as many as 30 Rohingya killed in Myanmar assault
Hundreds of Rohingya enter Bangladesh from Budichong, Myanmar, in 2017. File Photo by Abir Abdullah/EPA-EFE

April 9 (UPI) -- A deadly aerial assault against Rohingya Muslims last week appears to have killed many more than the Myanmar government reported, the United Nations human rights office said Tuesday.

The helicopter attack by the Myanmar military killed many Rohingya in Rakhine State. The government said six people died, but the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said as many as 30 were killed.

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OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said the office has reason to believe a higher death toll.

"We are now receiving reports that the number may be much higher," Shamdasani said.

Witnesses said military choppers began firing on Rohingya as they collected bamboo last Wednesday. Myanmar later confirmed the strike and said six had died as part of an anti-terrorist operation. The OHCHR disputes the terror link and said the attack may constitute a war crime.

Myanmar's military has been targeting the Arakan Army, a Buddhist insurgent group that's demanding political autonomy in Rakhine State. The OHCHR said the fighting has increased in the province in recent weeks and as many as 20,000 Rohingya have been displaced.

Violence against Muslim Rohingya began two years ago and the United Nations has said the campaign of violence amounts of "ethnic cleansing." Human rights officials say more than 700,000 Rohingya have been displaced so far and 10,000 have been killed. Tens of thousands have fled to Bangladesh.

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Bangladesh said last month it will stop accepting Rohingya after about one million. Many remain in camps along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

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