By Thu Thu Aung
YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar’s army sunk several boats carrying dozens of soldiers and police officers taken hostage by rebels in the restive western Rakhine state, the Arakan Army said on Sunday, adding that many had died.
The ethnic armed group abducted more than 50 people, most of them members of the security forces, a day earlier in the latest escalation of violence in the region where it has been fighting government troops for months.
The AA, which is demanding greater autonomy for Rakhine state, said troops opened fire on three vessels where the group were being held in Rathedaung township, sinking two and damaging one.
“Many were killed as there was no cover from incoming fire,” it said in a statement.
Two military spokesmen did not answer calls from Reuters seeking comment.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced across Rakhine state since clashes began in December, plunging the region, where more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled a military crackdown in 2017, into fresh chaos.
The abduction on Saturday was the second carried out in recent weeks by the AA, which recruits from the mostly Buddhist local majority.
Earlier this month, suspected rebels disguised as sports players boarded a bus in the state and took dozens of firefighters and civilians hostage.
(Reporting by Thu Thu Aung; Writing by Poppy McPherson; Editing by Dale Hudson)