Mobs of Buddhist extremists in Myanmar have attacked at least two mosques and set hundreds of Muslims’ houses on fire, killing one person and injuring at least 10 others.
The assaults took place in Okkan, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Yangon, the country’s former capital, on Tuesday afternoon.
Muslim families escaped and hid in forests as their homes burned.
According to some of the residents, as many as 400 Buddhist extremists armed with bricks and sticks attacked Okkan, targeting Muslim shops and ransacking two mosques.
Twenty riot police were later dispatched to guard one of the mosques.
Three outlying villages were hit the worst in the attacks, with at least 60 houses torched in each village.
The violence that originally targeted Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar is beginning to spread to other parts of the country, where Muslims who have been granted citizenship are now being attacked, according to the website burmamuslims.org.
About 800,000 Rohingyas in the western state of Rakhine are deprived of citizenship rights due to the policy of discrimination that has denied them the right of citizenship and made them vulnerable to acts of violence and persecution, expulsion, and displacement.
The Myanmar government has so far refused to extricate the stateless Rohingyas from their citizenship limbo, despite international pressure to give them a legal status.
Rohingya Muslims have faced torture, neglect, and repression in Myanmar for many years.
Hundreds of Rohingyas are believed to have been killed and thousands displaced in recent attacks by extremists who call themselves Buddhists.
The extremists frequently attack Rohingyas and have set fire to their homes in several villages in Rakhine. Myanmar army forces allegedly provided the fanatics containers of petrol for torching the houses of Muslim villagers, who are then forced to flee.
Myanmar’s government has been accused of failing to protect the Muslim minority.
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has also come under fire for her stance on the violence. The Nobel Peace laureate has refused to censure the Myanmar military for its persecution of the Rohingyas.
Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued separate statements, calling on Myanmar to take action to protect the Rohingya Muslim population against extremists.