About 18,000 Rohingya Muslims are estimated to have crossed into Bangladesh in the last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Wednesday, seeking to escape the worst violence in Myanmar's northwest in at least five years.
The death toll of sinking of several boats packed with Rohingya people fleeing from Myanmar in a border river in southeastern Bangladesh rose to 38 on Friday, after another 15 bodies were retrieved. A military source, however, blamed what he described as insurgents for torching the buildings.
The army, responding to the August 25 attacks, launched what it called clearance operations against the insurgents.
About 1 million Rohingya live in western Myanmar's Rakhine state, and conflicts between insurgents and security forces there have become increasingly deadly.
"They mercilessly slaughtered men, women and children", she told AFP by telephone from Cox s Bazar in Bangladesh where she has fled. They have posted photos, videos and details on social media that they say serve as evidence.
India's Supreme Court Friday began hearing a challenge to a decision to deport Rohingya back to Myanmar, where the minority Muslims have faced violent persecution.
The military intensified attacks on Rohingya Muslims last Friday after dozens of police and border outposts in Rakhine allegedly came under attack by a group that says it is defending the rights of the Rohingya.
It is almost impossible to verify information issued by either the government or Rohingya sympathizers because the government has barred most journalists from the area, except on limited official guided tours.
Survivors said Burmese soldiers were everywhere and that "armed people" were burning houses and killing people.
The ARSA emerged as a force in October previous year when their attacks killed Myanmar border police, prompting a crackdown by security forces that killed scores and forced 87,000 people to flee to Bangladesh. "My sister-in-law was shot with a gun".
Most Rohingya are denied citizenship and other rights the country's Buddhist majority enjoy, living in abject poverty with little access to aid.
The plight of the Rohingya made worldwide headlines in 2015 when thousands of Rohingya were left stranded on boats in southeast Asia with no food or water because no country was willing to welcome them.
United Nations sources also said on Friday that some 38,000 Rohingyas had managed to cross into neighboring Bangladesh.
The young helped carry the elderly, some on makeshift stretchers, and children carried newborns.
Bangladeshi border guards block people from crossing.
His account could not be independently verified by AFP, but offers an insight into the cat-and-mouse game between militants and security forces being played out in remote hamlets, fields and forest hideouts in Myanmar's westernmost Rakhine state. He said troops also used rocket-propelled grenades, and helicopters fired some sort of incendiary device.
This week, the crisis reached a tipping point when up to 40,000 people fled and hundreds were killed in just seven days. Witnesses reported the sound of gunshots, and Bangladeshi villagers said they could see military helicopters hovering in the Myanmar sky.
Issuing a press statement yesterday, he made a clarion call to the Myanmar government to stop its campaign of assault on Rohingya Muslims.
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