Rohingya refugees storm Bangladeshi border as pushback fails

A Rohingya woman cries after being stopped by Bangladeshi border guards at a makeshift shelter at Ghumdhum, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Sunday, Aug.27, 2017. Several hundred Rohingya trying to flee Myanmar got stuck in a "no man's land" at one border point barred from moving farther by Bangladeshi border guards. (AP Photo/Mushfiqul Alam)
Buddhist Rakhine refugees fled from Maungdaw stay at a monastery in Buthidaung, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Myanmar's government and advocates for the country's Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority traded charges Sunday of killing civilians, burning down buildings and planting land mines, as clashes that began last week when insurgents launched attacks against police posts continued. (AP Photo)
Buddhist Rakhine refugees fled from Maungdaw talks with Buddhist monks as they stay at a monastery Monday, Aug.28, 2017, in Buthidaung, Rakhine State, western Myanmar. Myanmar's government and advocates for the country's Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority traded charges Sunday of killing civilians, burning down buildings and planting land mines, as clashes that began last week when insurgents launched attacks against police posts continued. (AP Photo)
A group of Muslim Rohingyas in Ghumdhum, Cox's Bazar weep as Bangladesh border guards (not pictured) order them to leave their makeshift camp and force them out of the country, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Since 2012, more than 1,000 Rohingya have been killed, some 320,000 live in squalid camps in Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh, and thousands have embarked on perilous sea voyages to other Southeast Asian countries, according to estimates by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and the United Nations. (AP Photo/Mushfiqul Alam)
Members of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority who were pushed back by Bangladeshi border guards walk back to the Bangladeshi side upon hearing gun shots from the Myanmar side in, Ghumdhum, Bangladesh, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Since 2012, more than 1,000 Rohingya have been killed, some 320,000 live in squalid camps in Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh, and thousands have embarked on perilous sea voyages to other Southeast Asian countries, according to estimates by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and the United Nations. (AP Photo/Mushfiqul Alam)
Buddhist Rakhine refugees fled from Maungdaw get on a truck to Buthidaung at a checkpoint Monday, Aug.28, 2017, in Buthidaung, Rakhine State, western Myanmar. Myanmar's government and advocates for the country's Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority traded charges Sunday of killing civilians, burning down buildings and planting land mines, as clashes that began last week when insurgents launched attacks against police posts continued. (AP Photo)
Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority women and children take shelter in a forested area prior to moving to a make shift camp on the Bangladeshi side of the border in, Ghumdhum, Bangladesh, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Several hundred Rohingya who were trying to flee Myanmar are stuck in a "no man's land" at the Myanmar - Bangladesh border. (AP Photo/Mushfiqul Alam)
Buddhist Rakhine refugees fled from Maungdaw stay at a monastery in Buthidaung, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Myanmar's government and advocates for the country's Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority traded charges Sunday of killing civilians, burning down buildings and planting land mines, as clashes that began last week when insurgents launched attacks against police posts continued. (AP Photo)
Bangladeshi border guard personnel keep watch over Rohingya, sitting, as they stop them from crossing over to the Bangladesh side of the border at Ghumdhum, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Sunday, Aug.27, 2017. Several hundred Rohingya trying to flee Myanmar got stuck in a "no man's land" at one border point barred from moving farther by Bangladeshi border guards. (AP Photo/Mushfiqul Alam)
Members of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority who were pushed back by Bangladeshi border guards earlier in the day rush back to the Bangladeshi side upon hearing gun shots from the Myanmar side in, Ghumdhum, Bangladesh, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. Several hundred Rohingya who were trying to flee Myanmar are stuck in a "no man's land" at the Myanmar - Bangladesh border. (AP Photo/Mushfiqul Alam)

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh — About 1,000 ethnic Rohingya villagers from Myanmar forced their way Monday into Bangladesh after coming under fire from Myanmar soldiers, in fallout from violence unleashed last week when Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts in Myanmar's western Rakhine state.

The Muslim villagers, who were seeking refuge from the ongoing violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, had been in a border no man's land for two days. Bangladeshi border guards, who had provided them with food and water, on Monday sought to push them back to their own country.

A Bangladeshi local government representative, Jahangir Aziz, said that when Myanmar troops fired their guns, the crowd ran back and broke through a Bangladesh barricade and cordon of 300-400 guards. He said they then scattered, with at least some making it to unofficial camps for unregistered refugees.

Rohingya leaders and intelligence officials said 8,000-9,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh since the violence broke out last Thursday when Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar police posts.

Human rights groups and advocates for the Rohingya say the army retaliated by burning down villages and shooting civilians, forcing thousands to flee. The official death toll as of Sunday was 96 — most described by the government as "terrorists" — though the actual figure is likely to be higher.

The government blames Rohingya insurgents for the violence.

Both the government, in official statements, and its critics, in posts on social medias often accompanied by video clips, said there was widespread burning of buildings and even whole neighborhoods in Maungdaw township in northern Rakhine on Sunday.

"Extremist terrorists blew out improvised bombs, set fire the villages and attacked the police outposts in Region-2 of Maungtaw yesterday from the morning to afternoon," said an English-language statement issued by the Information Ministry on Monday.

Arakan Times, an online news website serving the Rohingya community, said Myanmar troops and border guard police burned down 1,000 homes in actions beginning Saturday and continuing Monday.

Both sides' claims were difficult to verify because the government denies most journalists access to the area.

A group of journalists who tried to drive to Maungdaw on Monday were turned back by police and soldiers, who said they were not authorized to let them through.

However, they did encounter Buddhist residents of the Maungdaw area who were driving the other direction to flee the chaos.

"I thought I was going to die." said Hla Nu Sein. "I couldn't run fast as my knee is not good. There are some elders still left in the village."

She said her home had been burned down twice in the last few years of escalating violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya, whom the Buddhists regard as having immigrated illegally from Bangladesh, though many have lived in Myanmar for generations. There was no way to confirm her story.

Another fleeing resident, Khin Than Kyi, also blamed the Muslims and said they'd made the area unsafe.

"The problem at the moment is the (people from South Asia) set fire to the villages in the northern part of Maungdaw. There is nowhere safe to stay in Maungdaw if it is close to their villages. That's why we are running away."

The fleeing Buddhist families were driving toward Buthidaung, where monasteries on Monday were taking in the displaced, giving them a temporary home.

A Rohingya insurgent group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, took responsibility for Thursday night's attacks on more than 25 locations, saying they were in defense of Rohingya communities that had been brutalized by government forces. They vowed to continue to defend the communities.

The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the targets of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remain.

The government refuses to recognize Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority. Most Rohingya are denied citizenship and its rights.

The raids last Thursday were deadlier than an attack by the militants on three border posts last October that killed nine policemen and set off months of brutal counterinsurgency operations by Myanmar security forces against Rohingya communities in Rakhine state. Human rights groups accused the army of carrying out massive human rights abuses, including killing, rape and burning down more than 1,000 homes and other buildings.

The army's abuses fueled further resentment toward the government among the Rohingya. ARSA took advantage of the resentment by stepping up recruitment of members.

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