At least six people were wounded in gunfire as Myanmar soldiers hunted ethnic Rakhine insurgents in the western town of Mrauk U, residents said on Tuesday, while the military said a convoy was ambushed entering the historic temple town, Trend reports citing Reuters.
Soldiers moved into the town on Monday night, marking an intensification of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where security forces have waged a campaign against a militant group called the Arakan Army.
While Rakhine State gained global attention after the army drove about 700,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh in late 2017, the ethnic Rakhine are largely Buddhist like the majority of Myanmar’s people.
The military said in a statement there was “shooting back-and-forth” as insurgents attacked a military convoy approaching Mrauk U before retreating into houses.
Myo Oo Khaung Sayataw, a monk, said he had taken six people to hospital and that a seven-year-old girl with burn wounds was among the casualties.
“I went out to the wounded people, because no one dared to go out,” he said. “I saw six military cars, they were shooting everywhere.”
Mrauk U, the former capital of an ancient kingdom, is popular with foreign travelers visiting its hundreds of centuries-old pagodas, which Myanmar wants classified as a World Heritage Site.
Two British tourists said they heard gunfire and explosions on Sunday.
Christopher Caddy, 32, who lives in Manchester, posted a video on Twitter showed him and his fiancee wandering through a temple.
“If you’re wondering what that noise is outside that’s just the Myanmar army just firing rifles and exploding stuff,” Caddy said.
“We were in the temple for maybe five minutes when we first heard all the shots and explosions,” he told Reuters. “A few minutes later, when I noticed that the gunfire was still continuing I started filming.”