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Human Rights Group Calls for Protection of Muslims in Burma

A boat is framed by the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a part of Pauktaw township that was burned in recent violence in Rakhine state, Burma, October 27, 2012.
A human rights group has urged Burma to protect thousands of Muslims in the country's west after satellite images showed once-thriving communities reduced to ashes.

The Burmese government said a week of sectarian fighting between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Burma's Rakhine state has left more than 2,800 houses burned down and 112 people dead, although they later reduced the estimate of the dead to 64.

New York based-Human Rights Watch said in a statement Saturday that it fears the death toll is far higher based on the accounts of witnesses fleeing the fighting, which it says has disproportionately targeted Muslims.

On Thursday, the U.N. released a statement calling on Burmese authorities to bring lawlessness and vigilante attacks under control and to put a stop to threats and extremist rhetoric.

Human Rights Watch said that in June, it documented killings, rape and mass arrests by Burmese security forces against Rohingya Muslims after troops failed to protect both them and Arakan Buddhists during deadly sectarian violence.

Some rights groups say the Burmese military, which has a long history of abusing minorities, unfairly targeted Muslims during the unrest. Burma's government denies the charges.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.