100 homes set alight in Burmese sectarian violence

100 homes set alight in Burmese sectarian violence

Buddhist mobs hurling bricks attacked two mosques and torched more than 100 homes in central Burma, killing one person and injuring at least nine more.

It was the latest anti-Muslim violence to shake the nation, after a series of clashes in late March.

Yesterday, terrified Muslim families who fled the assaults around Okkan, about 70 miles north of Yangon, could be seen hiding in forests along roads and crouching in paddy fields afterward.

Some, in a state of shock, wept as their houses burned in the night and young men with buckets tried to douse the flames.

The unrest was the first reported since late March, when similar Buddhist-led violence swept the town of Meikthila, further north, killing at least 43 people.

It highlighted the failure of reformist President Thein Sein’s government to curb increasing attacks on minority Muslims in a nation struggling to emerge from half a century of oppressive military rule.

Residents said as many as 400 Buddhists armed with bricks and sticks rampaged through Okkan yesterday afternoon.

They targeted Muslim shops and ransacked two mosques. About 20 riot police were later deployed to guard one of them, a single-storey structure, which had its doors broken and windows smashed.

The worst-hit areas were three outlying villages that form part of the town. Each village contained at least 60 mostly Muslim homes, and all were torched.

Columns of smoke and leaping flames could be seen rising from burning homes in the villages as a team of police approached, pausing to take pictures with their mobile phones.

Thet Lwin, a deputy commissioner of police for the region, said one of the 10 people wounded yesterday died overnight.

He said police have so far detained 18 attackers who destroyed 157 homes and shops in the town of Okkan and three outlying villages, which were quiet today with around 300 police on guard.

Stopping the spread of sectarian violence has proven a major challenge for the government since it erupted in western Rakhine state last year.

Human rights groups have accused the administration of failing to crack down on Buddhist extremists as violence has spread closer to the economic capital, Yangon.

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