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Sectarian violence unleashed against Burmese Muslims

BURMA'S president, Thein Sein, has admitted that his country's Rohingya Muslim population has been subjected to an unprecedented wave of ethnic violence. Whole villages and large sections of towns have been destroyed.

Mr Sein's admission follows release of satellite images showing the scale of the destruction in one coastal town, where most of the Muslim population appears to have been displaced and their homes wrecked.

The pictures, acquired by Human Rights Watch, show destruction to the town of Kyaukpyu on the country's west coast.

They reveal 14.4 hectares of destruction, in which some 811 buildings and houseboats have been destroyed.

The images confirm reports of massive violence in the town over 24 hours around 24 October, three days after the first wave of attacks. The incidents in Arakan province -- also known as Rakhine -- have displaced thousands of people in what appears to have been a wave of ethnic cleansing pitting Arakan Buddhists against Muslims.

"There have been incidents of whole villages and parts of the towns being burned down," Mr Sein's spokesman said. A government official initially put the death toll at 112 but later revised it to 67.

Mr Sein's comments follow a warning from the office of UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon that ethnic violence was endangering political progress in Burma.

The violence comes as the government is struggling to contain ethnic and religious tensions suppressed during nearly a half-century of military rule that ended last year.

© Observer

Sunday Independent