YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Thirteen policemen were killed and nine injured in early morning attacks Friday on police outposts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state by the insurgent Arakan Army, state media reported.
The Arakan Army is a rebel group seeking autonomy for Rakhine state from Myanmar’s central government. It has no links with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a Muslim insurgent group whose similar attacks in 2017 sparked a bloody government counterinsurgency campaign against the area’s Muslim Rohingya minority, driving more than 700,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
While the Muslim ARSA group has become virtually inactive, the Arakan Army, which is aligned with the state’s Buddhist population, has taken advantage of the area’s instability to increase its military activities after training its guerrillas in regions controlled by other insurgent groups, including the Kachin in northern Myanmar. There has been an upsurge in sporadic fighting between the Arakan Army and government forces since last month.
The state Myanmar News Agency said a total of 250 members of the Arakan Army took part in the attacks on three outposts in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships. While such numbers are sometimes inflated by the defenders, the rebel group is generally estimated to have several thousand well-armed and organized uniformed members, in contrast to the ragtag ARSA.
The report said two of the outposts were successfully defended by government forces, but seemed to indicate that the third was temporarily overrun and occupied by the rebels, who were finally driven out with the help of air support.
According to the report, the attackers were able to carry away 40 small weapons, ammunition and a walkie-talkie.
A photo posted on social media by Arakan Army sympathizers claimed to show 14 government security personnel captured by the rebels, along with ammunition and other equipment.
This story has been corrected to fix spelling of Myanmar News Agency.