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Death toll from Myanmar religions riots rises to 40, amid fear of spreading unrest

Soldiers have pulled more bodies from the wreckage of a riot-hit city in central Myanmar, bringing the death toll from recent sectarian violence to 40.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Tuesday that eight more bodies were found in Meikhtila as soldiers continued to clear devastated areas set ablaze by anti-Muslim mobs during three days of rioting last week.

Amid fears of spreading violence, shop owners in the largest city, Yangon, were told to close Monday evening by 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m.

The fears appeared unfounded but most Yangon shops remained closed Tuesday due to a national holiday.

The upsurge in sectarian unrest casts a shadow over President Thein Sein's administration as it struggles to make democratic changes after a half-century of military rule.