Ready for trouble: Members of the pro-Buddhist, anti-Muslim group 969 gather at a market in Yangon on April 4. | AP
April 30, 2013
OKKAN, Myanmar – Anti-Muslim violence flared anew in central Myanmar on Tuesday as angry mobs destroyed two mosques and set fire to hundreds of homes and shops in unrest that injured at least 10 people in the predominantly Buddhist nation.
Associated Press journalists who travelled to the area, about 70 miles (110 kilometres) north of the commercial capital of Yangon, saw terrified Muslim families who fled their homes, hiding in dense vegetation. Many, in a state of shock, cried as fires burned in the night.
Two mosques in the town of Okkan were damaged and looted. Columns of smoke rose outside Okkan, where regional police chief Win Naing said mobs launched arson attacks in three villages.
He said there were no immediate reports of deaths in the unrest, but at least 10 people had been injured.
Stopping the spread of anti-Muslim violence that rocked central Myanmar last month and western Rakhine state last year has proven a serious challenge for President Thein Sein’s government. Human rights groups accuse his administration of failing to crack down on extremists, with overwhelmed police standing by as machete-wielding mobs attacked Muslims and their property.
Muslims make up about 4 per cent of the nation’s roughly 60 million people.