Myanmar mob torches mosque as religious tensions spike

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NAYPYIDAW : A mob wielding weapons razed a mosque in north­ern Myanmar, state media report­ed Saturday, the second attack of its kind in just over a week as anti-Muslim sentiment swells in the Buddhist majority nation.

Myanmar has struggled to con­tain bouts of deadly religious blood­shed in recent years, with bristling sectarian tensions and rising Bud­dhist nationalism posing a steep challenge to the new government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Friday villagers in Hpak­ant, a jade-mining town in north­ern Kachin state, ransacked a mosque “wielding sticks, knives and other weapons” before burning it down, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.

“The mob was unresponsive and entirely beyond control. The build­ing was razed by the riotous crowd,” the paper reported, adding that the rampage was sparked by a dispute over the mosque’s construction.

No arrests have been made, it said.

A local NGO worker who vis­ited the town Saturday told AFP security forces had been deployed to maintain order.

“Police are now controlling the area and it is stable,” said Dashi Naw Lawn, from the Kachin Net­work Development Foundation.

The riot came eight days after a Buddhist mob destroyed a mosque in central Bago, forcing the Mus­lim community to seek refuge in a neighbouring town.

Tensions are also rising in western Rakhine, a state scarred by deadly riots in 2012 that have left communities almost complete­ly divided along religious lines.

The region is home to the state­less Rohingya, a Muslim minority largely relegated to destitute dis­placement camps and subject to host of restrictions on their move­ments and access to basic services.

Suu Kyi, a veteran democ­racy activist who championed her country’s struggle against repressive military rulers, has drawn criticism from rights groups for not taking swifter moves to carve out a solution for the ethnic minority.

Her government recently or­dered officials to refer to the group as “people who believe in Islam in Rakhine State” instead of Rohing­ya — a term whose use has set off protests by hardliners who insist the group are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh

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