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100 homes set alight in Burmese sectarian violence



Breaking News:

May 01, 2013
Buddhist mobs
hurling bricks attacked two mosques and torched more than 100 homes in central
Burma, killing one person and injuring at least nine more.
It was the latest
anti-Muslim violence to shake the nation, after a series of clashes in late
March.
Yesterday,
terrified Muslim families who fled the assaults around Okkan, about 70 miles
north of Yangon, could be seen hiding in forests along roads and crouching in
paddy fields afterward.
Some, in a state of
shock, wept as their houses burned in the night and young men with buckets
tried to douse the flames.
The unrest was the
first reported since late March, when similar Buddhist-led violence swept the
town of Meikthila, further north, killing at least 43 people.
It highlighted the
failure of reformist President Thein Sein’s government to curb increasing
attacks on minority Muslims in a nation struggling to emerge from half a
century of oppressive military rule.
Residents said as
many as 400 Buddhists armed with bricks and sticks rampaged through Okkan
yesterday afternoon.
They targeted
Muslim shops and ransacked two mosques. About 20 riot police were later
deployed to guard one of them, a single-storey structure, which had its doors
broken and windows smashed.
The worst-hit areas
were three outlying villages that form part of the town. Each village contained
at least 60 mostly Muslim homes, and all were torched.
Columns of smoke
and leaping flames could be seen rising from burning homes in the villages as a
team of police approached, pausing to take pictures with their mobile phones.
Thet Lwin, a deputy
commissioner of police for the region, said one of the 10 people wounded
yesterday died overnight.
He said police have
so far detained 18 attackers who destroyed 157 homes and shops in the town of
Okkan and three outlying villages, which were quiet today with around 300
police on guard.
Stopping the spread
of sectarian violence has proven a major challenge for the government since it
erupted in western Rakhine state last year.
Human rights groups
have accused the administration of failing to crack down on Buddhist extremists
as violence has spread closer to the economic capital, Yangon.