YANGON, Myanmar – Muslim militants armed with guns and machetes attacked Myanmar security forces at several police and border outposts overnight in a troubled northern state, with 12 deaths confirmed in the clashes so far, police said Friday.
The attacks that began after midnight occurred a few hours after the Rakhine Advisory Commission led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan submitted its final report recommending the Myanmar government act quickly to improve economic development and social justice in Rakhine state to resolve communal violence between Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslim minority.
The office of the nation's leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on its Facebook page that the attacks were intended to coincide with the release of Annan's report.
Local police said the simultaneous attacks targeted at least 26 outposts of the police, border guard police and security forces. Five border guard police and seven of the armed attackers were killed, police said, with casualties still being counted.
"More than 150 Muslim attackers were surrounding our outpost with machetes and guns," said Htun Naing, a Border Guard Police officer of Taung Pasa village or northern Buthidaung.
"Two border guard police officers from my outpost of Taung Pasa village and in total at least five police have been killed," said Htun Naing, who also said some attackers' bodies were found.
Last October, the army launched counterinsurgency operations in Rohingya areas of the state after the killing of nine border guards by insurgents described by the government as terrorists. U.N. human rights investigators and independent rights organizations charge that soldiers and police killed and raped civilians and burned down more than 1,000 homes during the operations. Since then, there have been signs of an increased Rohingya insurgency, threatening to accelerate a cycle of repression and resistance.
The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and were the targets of inter-communal violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remain.
According to the United Nations, more than 80,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since last October.