The death toll in ongoing clashes in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine State has climbed to at least 96, as thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been trying to cross into neighboring Bangladesh. The total includes at least 80 insurgents and 12 members of the security forces.
Fighting between the military and hundreds of Rohingya militants continued Saturday with the fiercest clashes near the major town of Maungdaw, according to locals and the government sources.
Myanmar's government said it evacuated at least 4,000 non-Muslim villagers in Rakhine state, as thousands of Rohingya, mostly women and children, sought to flee the violence.
Nearly 2,000 people have reached Bangladesh since Friday when Rohingya insurgents ambushed more than 20 police posts in Rakhine.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh detained and forcibly returned 70 Rohingya to Myanmar, within hours after Myanmar troops opened fire on villagers fleeing the country, Bangladesh police sources said Sunday.
The treatment of approximately 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims in mainly Buddhist Myanmar has been presented as the biggest challenge for national leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been accused by some Western critics of not speaking out for the long-persecuted Muslim minority.
The most recent flare up followed a report by a commission led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the conditions inside Rakhine.
The report urged immediate actions to heal the divide and abolish the restrictions of movement and citizenship imposed on the about one million-strong Rohingya community in Rakhine.
Deadly attacks by the militants on border police have prompted a military response that left scores dead and forced tens of thousands to flee to Bangladesh.
The UN believes that the 'clearances' operations by government security forces have amounted to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, a mainly Muslim minority living in Buddhist Myanmar.
The army and the Myanmar’s civilian government have vehemently deny allegations of widespread abuses including rapes and murders.
The area of Rakhine closest to Bangladesh has been in lockdown since October 2016.