Fresh skirmishes between the Burmese military and Arakan Army in violence-scarred northern Arakan (Rakhine) state have left two youths injured and forced about 200 villagers to flee their homes in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, local residents said Wednesday.
The two boys, ages 10 and 18, were injured and one house was destroyed when a stray mortar shell exploded in Maungdaw’s Yan Aung Myin village, though it is unclear whether the Myanmar Army or the AA fired the shell, said village head Thein Naing Win.
The two were taken to Maungdaw Hospital for treatment, he added.
About 200 residents of Ooyinthar village fled to Sango Taung village amid fighting on Tuesday, villagers said, bringing the total number of displaced civilians in the region to roughly 6,000 estimated by local relief groups since armed conflict between AA and Burmese troops ratcheted up in early December, locals said.
“The fighting started at around 6 p.m. yesterday and lasted for about 30 minutes,” said an Ooyinthar resident who declined to be named. “All villagers fled from the village. If the fighting stops today, we will return home tomorrow.”
The Burmese Army and local residents said the new battles left casualties on both sides, but no details were given. The AA said it participated in four new skirmishes but would not confirm whether it suffered any casualties.
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Colonel Win Zaw Oo from the government military’s Western Military Command, which oversees operations in Arakan state, blamed the latest rounds of fire on the AA.
“The AA started the fighting near the villages,” he told RFA. “They could have done so far from the villages, but they intentionally started them nearer so that villagers would flee from the fighting. Then the AA, along with the media, could portray the situation in the region as unstable.”
AA soldiers then attacked government troops near the border, and retreated into neighboring Bangladesh, he said.
“We didn’t attack them when they reached the other side because we don’t want to hurt the relationship between the two countries,” Win Zaw Oo said.
AA spokesman Khine Thukha denied accusations by the government army that the Arakan force has based some of its soldiers in Bangladesh.
“Actually, we are not there,” he said. “We deploy our troops along the border as we are fighting for Rakhine.”
The government army said it will continue clearance operations against the AA in the region, while the Arakan fighters said they expect more hostilities with national forces. Hostilities intensified after Jan. 4 when the AA attacked four police outposts in the region, killing 13 policemen and wounding nine others.
Read more from source: Radio Free Asia