Communal clashes the reason behind murders of 23 Myanmar nationals in Penang

GEORGE TOWN - Communal clashes have been identified as the reason behind the murder of 23 Myanmar nationals in Penang in the past 11 months.

Seven suspects have been arrested, and one of them has admitted to killing three of his countrymen following ethnic tensions between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar, the Malay Mail Online reported.

State police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi described the arrests as a "positive breakthrough".

"So far, they have been very cooperative. We have had some developments regarding the suspects," the news website quoted him as saying.

A police source close to the investigations told the Malay Mail Online that the main suspect, a Muslim from the Arakan district in Myanmar, was arrested by a special police task force early last week. Six other suspects were later arrested by police based on the phone logs of the main suspect.

"The main suspect said six of his family members were killed during communal clashes in his home state a year ago. We are now piecing the connection between all 23 cases to see if they were linked," the source said, adding that police hope to wrap up investigations in the next few weeks.

Most of the victims were men aged between 20 and 40 and were abducted from their homes, murdered elsewhere and dumped in isolated areas, including plantations.

The victims were found without documents and were identified by their colleagues and friends.