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Police fire shots to stop Buddhist mob in Myanmar

02 July 2014, 16:25

Yangon - Police fired warning shots to stop a Buddhist mob that damaged a mosque and tried to set fire to several Muslim-owned shops in Myanmar's second-largest city, authorities said on Wednesday.

At least four people were injured on Tuesday evening in Mandalay, mostly from stones thrown by the mob or from rubber bullets fired by police, said Khin Maung Oo, secretary of the city's Myanmar Muslim Youth Religious Convention Centre.

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation, has been grappling with sectarian violence since 2012 that has left up to 280 people dead and another 140 000 left homeless, most of them Muslims attacked by extremist Buddhists.

The violence in Mandalay, in central Myanmar, followed rumours that the Muslim owner of a teashop had raped a Buddhist woman, said Khin Maung Oo. Police did not immediately confirm or deny the alleged rape but said they were tipped off that the teashop might be attacked and told the owner to close early.

Authorities deployed hundreds of police after a crowd of more than 300 Buddhists marched to the teashop, singing the national anthem, according to Khin Maung Oo and several residents. Police fired rubber bullets to try to disperse the crowd, which scattered into groups that held cat-and-mouse chases with police for several hours.

Rioters threw stones at a mosque, causing minor damage to its exterior and front doors, and others ransacked a few Muslim-owned shops, said Khin Maung Oo. Several cars were set on fire or had windows shattered by stones and bricks.

Myanmar emerged from a half-century of military rule in 2011, but its transition to democracy has been marred by the sectarian violence.

Muslims account for about 4% of Myanmar's roughly 60 million people.

- AP

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