MANDALAY, Myanmar (AFP) - Muslims in Myanmar’s second-largest city accused police on Saturday of standing by as a Buddhist mob went on a rampage, torching a school and other buildings.
Angry mourners, some carrying crude weapons, rioted in Mandalay after the funeral of a 36-year-old Buddhist victim of the country’s latest eruption of religious unrest, witnesses said.
A school and dormitory in the Muslim area of a cemetery on the outskirts of the city were seen charred and damaged on Saturday.
“More than 70 police were here but did nothing,” said Win Naing, a Muslim donor to the school, who watched the attack from his hiding place in the home of a Buddhist friend.
He said some of the rioters were armed with sticks, metal pipes and even saws.
No children were believed to be in the school at the time and nobody was thought to have been injured in the attack.
Several days of violence, sparked by an accusation of rape, have also left a Muslim dead and 14 other people injured.
“Police could have stopped the mob but they did not,” said Zaw Zaw Latt, a Muslim member of an interfaith group in the city.
Police said they did not provide extra security for the crowds because they did not believe they would turn violent.
“Yesterday we did not stop the mob because we thought they were just taking part the funeral, not an attack,” said Ye Htut of the Myanmar regional police office.
At least 250 people have been killed across Myanmar since 2012 in Buddhist-Muslim clashes that have cast a shadow over the country’s political reforms.
Police have been accused of inaction in the past and the government has deployed soldiers in some cases to restore order.
A night-time curfew has been imposed in Mandalay and nine people have been arrested in connection with the recent violence.
Police said they were boosting security measures as a precaution in other cities, including the main city Yangon which has a diverse population of religious and ethnic minorities.
Social media users were unable to access Facebook for the second straight evening Friday, amid speculation that Myanmar had blocked the site to curb the spread of inflammatory comment online. The website was working normally on Saturday.
Radical monks have been accused of whipping up religious tensions, with fiery warnings that the country’s main religion is under threat from Islam.
A friend of the slain Buddhist man told AFP that a Muslim gang had used a “sword” in the attack.
The dead Muslim man, a popular local bicycle shop owner, was later killed while on his way to attend early morning prayers.