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Boats carrying fleeing Rohingya sink in Bangladesh; 26 dead

01 September 2017

Bangladesh has forcibly returned 70 Rohignya Muslims to Myanmar as hundreds of people flee the violence triggered by Islamists in Rakhine state.

At the United Nations, the US ambassador to the world body, Nikki Haley, urged Myanmar's security forces to avoid attacking innocent civilians. "(Her) messaging could not be more irresponsible right now".

Burma has evacuated thousands of Rakhine Buddhists from the area, where ongoing clashes have so far killed at least 117 people, majority Rohingya insurgents but also security officials.

Security forces said they had killed at least 80 militants, but there are reports of widespread killing and arson across Rakhine State, in Myanmar's west.

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Rohingya leaders say 8,000 to 9,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh since a fresh wave of violence broke out in Rakhine last Thursday.

Media access to Rakhine is restricted, but on Wednesday an AFP reporter on a government-led visit to the worst-hit section of the state saw plumes of smoke billowing from several burning villages. The U.N. sources in Bangladesh said around 20,000 Rohingya were still stranded in no man's land between the two countries, with one predicting the figure could jump to 30,000 later on August 31. One predicted the figure could jump to 30,000 later on Thursday. Human rights workers fear the toll is much higher.

"We thought it would be easier to face the sea than the (Myanmar) army", she said in tears. "The worsening cycle of violence. must be broken urgently".

The 1.1 million Rohingyas in Rakhine State are denied citizenship and live under apartheid-like conditions, despite many families living in Myanmar for generations.

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"We then went to the spot and recovered the bodies of two women and two children".

Jahangir Aziz, a Bangladeshi local government representative, said that when Myanmar troops fired their guns, the crowd ran back and broke through a Bangladesh barricade and cordon of 300-400 guards. In the Bangladeshi border district of Cox's Bazar, makeshift camps for the displaced set up since similar violence last October were being expanded. "It is surely time for the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council and other relevant bodies to take stronger collective action by invoking the "Responsibility to Protect" if the Burmese authorities remain unable or unwilling to take action to end this crisis".

That prompted a months-long security crackdown by Myanmar's army which left scores dead and forced 87,000 people to flee to Bangladesh.

"That happened on Sunday when suddenly security forces cordoned [off] the whole area, together with Rakhine seems like this has been a major massacre in Rathedaung", Ms Lewa said.

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United Nations special rapporteur Yanghee Lee expressed alarm Thursday about a worsening cycle of violence in the area that she said was "of grave concern" and "must be broken urgently".

Boats carrying fleeing Rohingya sink in Bangladesh; 26 dead