Yangon, September 26 (Reuters): The Myanmar’s army on Monday unearthed the bodies of 17 Hindu villagers, taking to 45 the number authorities suspect were killed by Rohingya Muslim insurgents last month at the onset of a wave of violence that has sent 480,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh.
But Muslim insurgents have denied that they killed Hindus adding that the charge is a ploy by the Myanmar government to divide Muslims and Hindus in Rakhine State.
The bodies have been found since Sunday buried outside a village in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, where bloodshed erupted on August 25 when Rohingya Muslim insurgents launched coordinated attacks on about 30 police posts and an army camp.
Members of Myanmar’s small Hindu minority appear to have been caught in the middle.
Some have fled to Bangladesh, complaining of violence against them by soldiers or Buddhist vigilantes. Others have complained of being attacked by the insurgents on suspicion of being government spies.
A search was launched on the weekend after a refugee in Bangladesh contacted a Hindu community leader in Myanmar to say insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) marched about 100 people out of their village on Aug. 25 and killed them, the government said.
Twenty-eight bodies were found on Sunday.
“This afternoon, a suspicious place was found about 400 metres northeast of the mass grave where the remains of Hindus were found yesterday,” the army said in a statement.
“Seventeen bodies of men were retrieved.”
The government has not speculated as to why the Hindus were killed. The army said the security forces and Hindu community leaders would continue the search
Myanmar said before the mass graves were found that more than 400 people had been killed, most of them insurgents.
Access to the area by journalists as well as human rights workers and aid workers is largely restricted.
Insurgents Deny Killing Hindus
An ARSA spokesman denied his group had killed the Hindus, saying Buddhist nationalists were trying to divide Hindus and Muslims.
“ARSA has internationally pledged not to target civilians and that remains unchanged, no matter what,” the spokesman, who is based in a neighboring country and identified himself only as Abdullah, told Reuters through a messaging service.
(The featured image at the top shows Hindu refugees from Rakhine State in Myanmar)