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Myanmar Arrests Rohingya Suspects; 6 Buddhists Killed Nearby

Rakhine state, Myanmar

Security forces in Myanmar fired warning shots to disperse Muslim villagers while they were arresting four suspected insurgents in a western region where government troops have been accused of human rights violations against Rohingya minority, officials said Saturday.

About 600 villagers surrounded troops in Rathedaung township in Rakhine state on Friday while they were searching for six men suspected of financing a terrorist group, said police officer Zaw Win Aung.

He said the villagers carried slingshots, sticks and machetes as they approached the troops, who responded by firing 40-50 warning shots. They managed to arrest four suspects, he said.

Buddhists killed

On Thursday, the government said that six Buddhists were killed and two other villagers are missing in Kaigyi village in Maungdaw township, also in Rakhine state.

It wasn't clear who was responsible, but Maj. Zayar of the border guard police headquarters in Maungdaw said they were searching for culprits.

The government has shut down northern Rakhine to independent journalists, rights experts and humanitarian workers for almost nine months except for organized media trips.

The military has launched operations in the northern part of Rakhine since last October, when suspected Rohingya militants killed nine police officers along the border with Bangladesh.

Rights groups protest

Rights groups said that during the crackdown, more than 1,000 houses have been burned down, an unknown number of civilians killed and hundreds of Rohingya men and boys arrested. The government said that the operation had ended in February.

Last month, the U.N. human rights envoy to Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, expressed disappointment over a lack of government effort to tackle problems behind the violence between Buddhists and Muslims. She said she saw little improvement in the situation for Rohingya and that the government prevented her from visiting several areas there.