Myanmar fires border police chief over deadly insurgent attacks

October 17, 2016 8:30 AM EDT

Police forces prepare to patrol in Maungdaw township at Rakhine state, northeast Myanmar, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.


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By Aung Hla Tun

Yangon (Reuters) - Myanmar has fired the police official charged with guarding its troubled border with Bangladesh, officials said on Monday, after deadly attacks that sparked fighting with insurgents allegedly inspired by Islamist militants.

Nine police officers were killed when three police posts in northern Rakhine State were overrun on Oct. 9 by attackers wielding automatic weapons, sticks and knives, and believed to belong to the mostly stateless Rohingya Muslim group.

"Necessary action will be taken against the responsible police officials for their negligence, which led to the loss of the lives of police personnel and the loss of weapons," said Major General Aung Soe, deputy minister for home affairs.

Aung Soe did not give specifics, but Police Brigadier General Maung Maung Khin, the border chief in Maungdaw township, the site of the attack, has been fired, said an official at police headquarters and an official of the Rakhine State government.

A replacement, Thura San Lwin, has already been named, said the two officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The government has said the assault was orchestrated by the little-known "Aqa Mul Mujahidin", alleged to have links to Islamists in Pakistan and elsewhere, and also blamed it for later attacks on security forces in the Muslim-majority region.

Since the attacks, several videos have circulated online, showing armed men declaring jihad in the language of the Rohingya. Reuters has not been able to verify their authenticity, but government officials say they believe they show members of an insurgent group with about 400 fighters.

The army has designated the region an "operation zone" and troops have fanned out to track down attackers who made off with dozens of weapons and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition in the Oct. 9 assault.

In a statement on Monday, the government said 30 people have been killed and 12 suspects detained in the operation, in which five soldiers were killed.

In the latest reported killings of alleged attackers, two women and a man were shot dead on Saturday after they ambushed police officers conducting a "clearance operation," the military-run Myawady newspaper said.

International human rights groups and advocates for the Rohingya have raised concerns that extrajudicial killings may be taking place.

About 1.1 million Rohingya live in Rakhine State, where they face restrictions on their movements and access to services. They constitute most of the 125,000 residents of displacement camps since communal clashes with ethnic Buddhists in 2012.

(Writing by Simon Lewis; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)



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