TEKNAF, Bangladesh — Almost 400 people have died in violence in western Myanmar that was triggered by attacks on security forces by insurgents from the Rohingya ethnic minority, Myanmar’s military said, as both sides exchanged charges of atrocities and thousands of Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh.
The death toll, posted on the Facebook page of Myanmar’s military commander Friday, is a sharp increase over the previously reported number of just over 100. The statement said all but 29 of the 399 dead were insurgents.
The statement said there had been 90 armed clashes, including an initial 30 attacks by insurgents on Aug. 25, making the combat more extensive than previously announced. The army, responding to the attacks, launched what it called clearance operations against the insurgents.
Advocates for the Rohingya, an oppressed Muslim minority in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar, say security forces and vigilantes attacked and burned villages, shooting civilians and causing others to flee. Hundreds of civilians were killed, they say, posting photos, videos and details on social media as evidence.
The government blames the insurgents for burning their own homes and killing Buddhists in Rakhine. Longstanding tension between the Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists erupted in bloody rioting in 2012, forcing more than 100,000 Rohingya into displacement camps, where many still live.
As the refugees poured across the border into Bangladesh, a police official in Cox Bazar’s Teknaf area said that 21 bodies of Rohingya were found floating in the Naf River. Mohammed Mohiuddin Khan said two of them had bullet wounds.
On Thursday, three boats with refugees capsized, killing at least 26, including women and children, police said.
Among those fleeing the violence was Sham Shu Hoque, 34, who crossed the border with 17 family members. He said he left his village of Ngan Chaung on Aug. 25 after it was attacked by Myanmar security forces who shot at the villagers. He said troops also used rocket-propelled grenades, and helicopters fired some sort of incendiary device.
Five people were killed in front of his house, he said.