Myanmar army shelling kills woman, two infants in Rakhine

YANGON (REUTERS) - Shelling by Myanmar's military killed a woman and two infants, and wounded six others in Rakhine State on Monday (Dec 2), according to residents and a lawmaker in the town of Mrauk U, where security forces are fighting against an ethnic militant group.

The army unleashed a counter-insurgency campaign against the Arakan Army, which recruits from the region's mostly Buddhist ethnic Rakhine population, almost a year ago.

The militants are fighting for greater autonomy from the central government, and the authorities cut Internet access to most of the region in June.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced across Rakhine since clashes began in December last year, bringing fresh chaos to the region, from which more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled a military crackdown in 2017.

Two military spokesmen did not answer phone calls from Reuters seeking comment, while a spokesman for the Arakan Army also blamed the army for the shelling, saying there were no clashes involving its fighters in Mrauk U.

Two pregnant women were among the wounded, and the woman killed in the shelling was a mother of three, Tun Aung Kyaw, a regional MP from Mrauk U, told Reuters.

"The government must prioritise the safety of civilians immediately. They must control their security forces," he said.

Before the recent fighting, Mrauk U was popular with international tourists who came to see the ancient temples that dot the landscape.

Now, displaced villagers camp in tents in the shadows of the monuments and, in the town, families sleep in bunkers built with sandbags to escape shelling and gunfire.

"This has happened in a civilian area in Mrauk U town and also near… an ancient pagoda," said Zaw Htun, a local teacher. "It is unacceptable."

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