Rohingya insurgents attack police in western Myanmar, wounding 6

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Six Myanmar border guard police have been wounded in an attack by Rohingya Muslim insurgents in Rakhine state, government media reported on Saturday, amid fears of escalating violence in the region.

About 10 armed attackers from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) ambushed a border guard post near Wet Kyein village in Maungdaw township in the north of the state on Wednesday, according to the government-controlled Myanmar TV network.

A government spokesman could not be reached for comment.

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Rakhine has been roiled by violence for weeks, since fighting broke out between security forces and another armed group, the Arakan Army (AA).

The AA, which pre-dates ARSA, is a rebel group dominated by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists that has been fighting for autonomy for the western state for around a decade.

ARSA, which emerged with attacks on border posts in 2016, is focused on winning rights for Rohingya, the mostly stateless Muslim minority long persecuted in Myanmar.

Some 5,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes in the recent violence, according to the United Nations.

A crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine in 2017 triggered an exodus of about 730,000 Rohingya refugees to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The United Nations and Western governments denounced the military operations as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar has said it was conducting a legitimate offensive against insurgents.

Earlier reports had attributed an attack on Wednesday in the same area to the AA, but an official with the Maungdaw border guard police said ARSA, which had previously attacked the security forces, was responsible.

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“At first, it was a preliminary investigation, but now it is sure,” Police Lieutenant-Colonel Tin Han Lin told Reuters.

On Friday, Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, voiced alarm at the “escalating violence” in Rakhine, and urged both sides to show restraint and protect civilians.