Some 77 Rohingya Muslims and 12 members of security forces were reportedly killed in the Rakhine state of Myanmar after a rebel group launched pre-dawn raids on police posts and tried to break into an army base.
The office of Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, announced the death toll in a statement on Saturday, claiming the Rohingya killed were fighters.
A statement on Friday said that an estimated 150 fighters staged coordinated attacks at around 1 am local time in the northern Maungdaw township.
The clashes came hours after a panel led by former UN chief Kofi Annan urged Myanmar to lift restrictions on movement and citizenship for Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for the attacks in a Twitter post but did not mention casualty figures or how many fighters were involved.
ARSA, accusing the Myanmar forces of killings and rape, said on Friday it was “taking defensive actions” in more than 25 different locations.
The township of Rathetaung in northern Rakhine has been under “a blockade for more than two weeks which is starving the Rohingya people to death”, it said.
“As they prepare to do the same in Maungdaw … we had to eventually step up in order to drive the Burmese colonizing forces away.”
The group warned of more attacks to come.
ARSA was formed by Rohingya living in Saudi Arabia after a bout of serious communal violence in 2012, according to the International Crisis Group.
Suu Kyi’s office said, “extremist Bengali insurgents attacked a police station in Maungdaw region in northern Rakhine state with a handmade bomb explosive and held coordinated attacks on several police posts”.