Aug. 27 (UPI) — Thousands of people are fleeing the violence in state of Rakhine in Myanmar with dozens unsuccessfully attempting to enter neighboring Bangladesh.
The Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh said Saturday that “thousands of unarmed civilians” from Rakhine state had gathered near its border and were “making attempts to enter Bangladesh.”
Bangladeshi border guards, however, are turning the Muslims back. Bangladeshi police said 70 people were sent back into Myanmar after they tried to enter a refugee camp in the Ghumdhum border area.
“They were pleading with us not to send them back to Myanmar,” said one police officer in a BBC report.
The Rakhine state is the home of the Rohingya community of ethnic Muslims. The government of Myanmar does not recognize their citizenship or the ethnic minority status.
In October 2016, approximately 85,000 civilians fled to Bangladesh after similar violence broke out, the ministry said. Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mahbub Uz Zaman expressed “serious concern at the possibility of recurrence of such a situation.”
Rohingya insurgents attacked police outposts and an army base Friday.
Killed were 77 insurgents, 12 security officers and six civilians, state media reported.
Eighty-eight village homes were destroyed in one attack, and police and residents of another settlement fought off about 500 insurgents in another attack, the government-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.
On Friday, the State Counselor Office’s Information Committee said at least 20 outposts and an army base were targeted. An estimated 150 insurgents attempted to storm the base but “soldiers fought back,” authorities said.
Security forces boosted their operations in Rakhine after “another wave of ambushes by extremist terrorists,” the New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday, citing the Information Committee of the State Counselor’s Office.
Pope Francis appealed Sunday for an end to the violence.
“Sad news has reached us of the persecution of our Rohingya brothers and sisters, a religious minority,” the pope said to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square. “I would like to express my full closeness to them — and let all of us ask the Lord to save them, and to raise up men and women of good will to help them, who shall give them their full rights.”