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Twenty-six ethnic Rohingyas drown fleeing Myanmar violence

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Twenty-six ethnic Rohingyas drown fleeing Myanmar violence

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Three boats carrying ethnic Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar have capsized.

The bodies of 26 were recovered by Bangladeshi border guards on Thursday.

Fifteen children and 11 women, all Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, were found by villagers after they were washed ashore at Shah Porir Dwip island in Bangladesh, a short distance from the mouth of the Naf river that separates the two countries.

Rohingyas fled a Myanmar army counteroffensive that followed Rohingya insurgent attacks on security forces last week.

Nearly 30,000 more Rohingyas are said to have made the perilous crossing by boat or on foot into Bangladesh.

Eyewitness Noor Symon said: “We were being shot at and killed by Buddhists. They burned our homes. They shot and killed my husband.”

Those arriving in Bangladesh say a campaign is under way to force them out, but Myanmar says its army is conducting clearance operations against “extremist terrorists” and that security forces have been told to protect civilians.

Buddhist nationalists rallied in Yangon to demand the military take charge of the deteriorating situation.

At the United Nations, the US ambassador Nikki Haley urged Myanmar’s security forces to avoid attacking innocent civilians.

Haley condemned recent attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but added “as Burmese security forces act to prevent further violence, they have a responsibility to adhere to international humanitarian law, which includes refraining from attacking innocent civilians and humanitarian workers”.

She also urged security forces to ensure aid reaches those in need and to ensure the rights of all communities.

Monitors said fleeing Rohingyas reported that the army and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have unleashed a campaign of arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population.

Bangladeshi border guards have recovered two dozen bodies from the country’s shore in the last two days, as tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims make desperate attempts to flee the worst violence involving the Myanmar minority in at least five years.

At the United Nations, the U.S. ambassador to the world body, Nikki Haley, urged Myanmar’s security forces to avoid attacking innocent civilians.

Haley condemned recent attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but added “as Burmese security forces act to prevent further violence, they have a responsibility to adhere to international humanitarian law, which includes refraining from attacking innocent civilians and humanitarian workers.”

She also urged security forces to ensure aid reaches those in need and to ensure the rights of all communities.

BURNING, BURNING

Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, a Rohingya monitoring group, said it appeared Myanmar security forces were trying to drive out much of the Rohingya population. She said ethnic Rakhine vigilantes were “participating in the burning of villages”.

“What we’re hearing is burning, burning, burning,” she said. “And it seems to be spreading from south to north.”