Rohingya insurgents launch rare attack on Myanmar military

Insurgents ambush army vehicle in one of only a few assaults since they hit several security posts on August 25 last year

epa06413621 An armed soldier stand guards in Maungdaw township, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 02 January 2018. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 650,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar from violence over the last weeks and months with most of them trying to reach Bangladesh. Media reports on 25 November said that the two countries amidst growing international criticism have found an agreement to begin a repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.  EPA/NYUNT WIN
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Rohingya Muslim insurgents ambushed a military vehicle in Myanmar's Rakhine state, wounding five members of the security forces, state media and officials said, as the rebels claimed responsibility for the rare attack.

A wave of raids by the insurgents on security force posts on August 25 last year sparked sweeping army counter-insurgency operations in the Muslim-majority north of the state which led to widespread violence and arson and an exodus of some 650,000 Rohingya villagers to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The United Nations has condemned the Myanmar military campaign as ethnic cleansing — a claim that Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejects.

Since August 25, insurgents from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa), who claimed responsibility for the co-ordinated raids on 30 security posts, have mounted only a few sporadic attacks.

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The Myanmar military said about 10 "extremist Bengali terrorists Arsa" carried out the Friday attack on a truck taking someone to hospital. Myanmar refuses to acknowledge the Rohingya minority as a Myanmar ethnic group, instead referring to them as Bengalis.

"A vehicle … was attacked by 20 insurgents from the mountain using homemade mines and small arms," the government said.

An Arsa spokesman confirmed that his group had carried out the attack.

"Yes, Arsa takes responsibility for the latest military movement," the spokesman said, adding that further details may be revealed later.

Arsa dismisses any links to Islamist militant groups and says it is fighting to end the oppression of the Rohingya people.

The Yangon-based Frontier Myanmar magazine quoted a resident of a nearby village as saying that sporadic gunfire had been heard at the time of the ambush. A state-run newspaper reported on Saturday that fighting also continued after the ambush.

The area is largely off-limits to reporters.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have been discussing a plan to repatriate Rohingya refugees but more insecurity in Myanmar is likely to raise doubts about how quickly that might take place.