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UN calls for protecting civilians as fighting, though reduced, continues in north-west Myanmar

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By UN News Centre

Even though fighting between security forces and a group, identified by the Government as the Aqa mul moujahideen, in some villages on the outskirts of Maungdaw township in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine province appear to have reduced in severity, an atmosphere of fear and tension continues to grip the local population, a spokesperson for the United Nations said today.

“While deploring the attacks on the security forces and noting their sober response to these attacks, we continue to underline the importance of caution to avoid any loss of innocent lives or damage to properties of the local population from the continuing operations against the attackers,” UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told journalists during the daily press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.

“We also note the strong commitment expressed by the Government in upholding the rule of law, proceeding against the perpetrators in accordance with proper judicial process and guarding against any looting, provocation or hatred among the people or incitement to communal violence,” he added.

According to an update issued Monday by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), border posts in the region were attacked on 9 October resulting in the displacement of several hundred people. Some 1,200 people are confirmed to have taken shelter in a school at Buthidaung (a town located in the far-west of Myanmar, about 25 kilometres from Maungdaw, near the country’s border with Bangladesh).

At the briefing, Mr. Dujarric also reported that tight movement restrictions in the “operation zone” continue to be imposed, thereby blocking access to the UN and other international partners as well as for local Muslim villagers.

OCHA too had reported that its response had been hampered by movement restrictions.

Since the day of the attack, almost all humanitarian activities have been suspended and many international non-governmental organizations continue to have national staff members stuck in the affected areas, Mr. Dujarric said.

Bangladesh has also sealed its borders with Myanmar to deny the attackers an easy escape and has handed over two suspects to the Government authorities.

“The UN hopes that this situation can be resolved quickly so that Rakhine state can be restored to normalcy so that its people can move forward towards a peaceful, prosperous and harmonious future,” added Mr. Dujarric.