Govt pins Rakhine at­tacks on Is­lamist group

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­

Over the week­end, a young teacher was shot and an at­tack on se­cu­rity per­son­nel ended in the deaths of three as­sailants in Maung­daw, while the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice blamed the at­tacks on a lit­tle-known Pak­istani trained cell.

THE week­end was marked by more vi­o­lence and ar­rests in north­ern Rakhine State as a young teacher was shot and an at­tack on se­cu­rity per­son­nel ended in the deaths of three as­sailants. The lat­est blood­shed comes in the af­ter­math of what the gov­ern­ment is call­ing a co­or­di­nated, deadly as­sault by Is­lamist in­sur­gents on three Myan­mar Bor­der Po­lice posts in Maung­daw and Rathedaung town­ships on Oc­to­ber 9.

Ko Thein Tun, 23, was shot on Oc­to­ber 15 while col­lect­ing bam­boo near Myo vil­lage, about 8.5 kilo­me­tres (5.3 miles) from Maung­daw town. The man was ad­mit­ted to Maung­daw Hos­pi­tal, where he was due for same-day surgery to re­move the bul­let.

Ko Bar Yar, the vic­tim’s brother, said Ko Thein Tun had been a teacher in Maung­daw town­ship for over a year.

“We in­formed the po­lice check­point at Kan Thar Yar [vil­lage, of the shoot­ing], and po­lice brought him to hos­pi­tal. He is still in an alarm­ing con­di­tion,” he told The Myan­mar Times.

“There are no mil­i­tary troops op­er­at­ing in the vil­lage as well as the vil­lage be­ing a lit­tle far from Mus­lim vil­lages. There­fore we could not con­firm yet who did it,” said a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cial who asked for anonymity.

Ma La Won, a Myo vil­lage res­i­dent, said more than a dozen peo­ple had fled to neigh­bour­ing Kan Thar Yar vil­lage fol­low­ing the shoot­ing.

“We were afraid to stay at home. There­fore we fled to a place where we thought would be safer,” she told The Myan­mar Times.

Mean­while, the mil­i­tary-run news out­let Myawady re­ported that three po­lice of­fi­cers were at­tacked by a trio of knife-wield­ing as­sailants the same day in Late Aing vil­lage. The at­tack­ers – two women and one man – were shot dead as they fled the scene, Myawady re­ported.

The vi­o­lence came just one day after the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice an­nounced that the Oc­to­ber 9 at­tacks were per­pe­trated by a lit­tle-known Is­lamist group by the name of Aqa Mul Mu­jahidin.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice, “the at­tacks in Maung­daw town­ship were sys­tem­at­i­cally planned in ad­vance over a long pe­riod of time, as­sisted by for­eign fund­ing and the sup­port of mem­bers of for­eign ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions”.

Nearly 400 mil­i­tants could owe al­le­giance to the group, said the state­ment.

It iden­ti­fied the group’s leader as Hav­is­toohar, say­ing he had pre­vi­ously trained with the Tal­iban in Pak­istan.

Sev­eral Mus­lim res­i­dents of Maung­daw town­ship told The Myan­mar Times that they had heard of the Oc­to­ber 9 at­tacks, but knew lit­tle more about the sit­u­a­tion.

“Of course I heard about the at­tack but that’s all I’ve heard. Noth­ing more,” said Athi Marnu, who lives in Maung­daw town. “I know one thing: that the at­tack oc­curred and the clinic has closed. There­fore my grand­daugh­ter could not see the doc­tor from the clinic.”

But most Mus­lims The Myan­mar Times spoke to, both those liv­ing in the town and oth­ers who had fled there from sur­round­ing vil­lages, were hes­i­tant to dis­cuss the re­cent up­heaval with mem­bers of the me­dia.

Dur­ing a visit to Kyikan Pyin vil­lage – site of the first at­tack – and sur­round­ing set­tle­ments on Oc­to­ber 14, many homes ap­peared to have been aban­doned.

“We an­nounced that they can stay nor­mally in the vil­lage if they did not com­mit the at­tack and co­op­er­ate with se­cu­rity forces while the forces are ask­ing ques­tions,” said U Ye Htut, an of­fi­cial with the Maung­daw district ad­min­is­tra­tive depart­ment.

“How­ever, no­body did it. I think be­cause they have anx­i­ety as well,” he told The Myan­mar Times.

With the week­end killings, at least 33 peo­ple – based on a tally of state me­dia re­ports – have been killed as se­cu­rity forces comb north­ern Rakhine State in an ef­fort to root out the mil­i­tants. State me­dia yes­ter­day did not of­fer the lat­est ca­su­alty fig­ures.

The Oc­to­ber 9 at­tacks killed nine po­lice of­fi­cers, as well as eight of the as­sailants. State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has vowed to up­hold the rule of law as Rakhine State has be­come in­creas­ingly mil­i­tarised over the last week. Hu­man rights groups, how­ever, have urged that se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions be con­ducted with re­straint amid re­ports of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings.

Myawady re­ported that four more peo­ple were ar­rested in Redar vil­lage, Maung­daw town­ship, on Oc­to­ber 15, ap­par­ently due to sus­pected links to Aqa Mul Mu­jahidin.

The lead­ers of po­lit­i­cal par­ties with ties to Is­lam roundly con­demned last week’s at­tacks, but said they were not fa­mil­iar with the or­gan­i­sa­tion be­ing blamed.

“We can­not ac­cept any ter­ror­ist who de­stroys the sta­bil­ity of the state. But I was sur­prised when I heard of the Aqa Mul Mu­jahidin or­gan­i­sa­tion,” said U Maung Maung Ni, a Na­tional Devel­op­ment and Demo­cratic Party mem­ber.

“I heard RSO was there [in the Bangladesh bor­der re­gion] sev­eral years ago, but no one could con­firm yet whether the group is re­ally ac­tive or not,” he said, re­fer­ring to the Ro­hingya Sol­i­dar­ity Or­gan­i­sa­tion, an armed group thought to be de­funct but which the gov­ern­ment says is linked to Aqa Mul Mu­jahidin.

U Kyaw Min, chair of the Democ­racy and Hu­man Rights Party, ex­pressed sim­i­lar scep­ti­cism but added that he was not in a po­si­tion to make as­ser­tions about the sit­u­a­tion on the ground in Rakhine State.

“We still are ob­serv­ing how the gov­ern­ment tack­les the is­sue. The most im­por­tant thing we are con­cerned with now is the se­cu­rity of lo­cal res­i­dents in those ar­eas,” said U Kyaw Min.

The gov­ern­ment has sought to tightly con­trol the flow of in­for­ma­tion com­ing out of Rakhine State, fear­ing that the spread of unchecked ru­mours could lead to the kind of in­ter-re­li­gious vi­o­lence that wracked the state in 2012.

A ma­jor­ity of Maung­daw town­ship’s pop­u­la­tion are self-iden­ti­fy­ing Ro­hingya Mus­lims. Ri­ot­ing be­tween that largely state­less group and Rakhine Bud­dhists in 2012 killed more than 100 peo­ple and dis­placed some 140,000, the vast ma­jor­ity of whom are Ro­hingya who re­main in tem­po­rary camps four years later.

A press con­fer­ence is sched­uled for to­day by a Union gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion that has re­cently re­turned from Rakhine State and was led by In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter U Pe Myint. – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Ei Ei Toe Lwin

Photo: Kaung Htet

Tat­madaw sol­diers take po­si­tions on a truck out­side of Maung­daw town yes­ter­day in Rakhine State.

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