Myanmar ethnic armed group claims control of western town


YANGON/BANGKOK (AFP):A Myanmar ethnic minority armed group on Saturday claimed its fighters had seized control of a town in western Rakhine state, in what would be another blow to the junta.

Clashes have rocked Rakhine since the Arakan Army (AA) attacked security forces in November, ending a ceasefire that had largely held since the 2021 military coup.

AA fighters have seized territory, including along the border with India and Bangladesh, piling further pressure on the junta as it battles opponents elsewhere across the Southeast Asian country.

"We seized all bases of the Myanmar Army in Buthidaung," in northern Rakhine state, the AA said on its Telegram channel on Saturday.

Those seized included a "military strategic headquarters", it added, without giving details.

Its fighters were still clashing with junta troops outside the town, it said.

Buthidaung sits around 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of state capital Sittwe, which is still held by the military.

Earlier this month, the AA said it had taken hundreds of junta personnel prisoner following an assault on a command near the Buthidaung.

A junta spokesman has been approached for comment.

Communication with Rakhine is extremely difficult, with most mobile networks down.

The AA is one of several armed ethnic minority groups in Myanmar's border regions, many of whom have battled the military since independence from Britain in 1948 over autonomy and control of lucrative resources.

The AA claims to be fighting for more autonomy for the state's ethnic Rakhine population.

Fighting had spread to 15 of Rakhine state's 17 townships since November, the UN's human rights chief said last month.

Hundreds of people have been killed or wounded and more than 300,000 displaced, it said.

Clashes between the AA and the military in 2019 roiled the region and displaced around 200,000 people.

The military launched a crackdown on the Rohingya minority there in 2017 which is now the subject of a United Nations genocide court case. - AFP

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