Myanmar Muslims kill 8 Buddhists in Indonesian centre
04/05/2013 11:09 GMT
By Atar Ahmad
MEDAN, Indonesia, April 5, 2013 (AFP) - A group of Myanmar Muslims beat eight Buddhists to death at an Indonesian detention centre Friday after becoming enraged at news of deadly communal violence in their homeland, officials said.
The Rohingya Muslims launched the attack at the immigration centre on Sumatra island using weapons fashioned from smashed up beds and broom handles after seeing pictures of recent religious violence in Myanmar that left dozens dead.
The attack underscores the soaring Muslim-Buddhist tensions that have cast a shadow over political reforms in Myanmar, where the end of decades of authoritarian military rule has laid bare deep sectarian fault lines.
The recent disorder in Mynmar was the worst since an eruption of violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine last year that left scores dead and tens of thousands -- mainly Muslims -- displaced.
The Rohingya have been described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, and violent episodes have accelerated their flow from Myanmar, with an increasing number arriving on Indonesian shores.
Immigration centre official Rida Agustian said the entrance to the block where the detainees were being held was sealed off to stop officers from intervening as the deadly attack was launched in the early hours.
When officers finally got in, they found "blood spattered on the walls and in pools on the floor," he said.
"The men had used wood from their beds and broom sticks as weapons to kill.
"The bodies were covered in blood, it looked like they were beaten and tortured to death."
Agustian said 15 people, believed to Rohingya, were injured during the violence at the centre, where 106 of them are being held.
Kyawkyaw, 25, who gave only one name and was one of 11 Myanmar Buddhist fishermen being held at the centre before the violence erupted, said he heard the attack unfolding and was "very scared".
"We ask the Indonesian government to send us straight back home to Myanmar," he told AFP outside the centre before being taken away for questioning by police.
The attack happened after the detainees saw images of violence between non-Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in central Myanmar last month that left at least 43 people dead and many Muslim homes and mosques destroyed, said local police chief Endro Kiswanto.
"They managed to see some photos of the violence in Myanmar, including buildings on fire," Kiswanto told AFP.
He said all eight Buddhist men were dead when police arrived at the detention centre in the early hours of Friday morning. Twenty-five detainees and 30 other witnesses were being questioned by police.
Yusuf Umardani, head of the detention centre, said the photos sparked an argument between the Buddhists and Rohingya, during which a Rohingya cleric was stabbed.
"The cleric told his followers not to take revenge, but around 1.30 in the morning the Muslims came to the Buddhist cell and locked the block from inside," he said.
The United Nations refugee agency said in a statement that it was "saddened by reports of fatalities and injuries" in the disturbance.
Many Rohingya Muslims arriving on Indonesian shores face long stints in detention awaiting UN assessment for refugee status. Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.
Last month's communal violence was apparently triggered by an argument in a gold shop in the central town of Meiktila that turned into a riot, but witnesses say the wave of violence since then appears to have been well organised.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) this week urged Myanmar to investigate the failure of police to stop the violence.
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