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Religious riots shake eastern Myanmar for second day

LASHIO, Myanmar: Religious riots shook eastern Myanmar for a second day yesterday with one man hacked to death and four injured, a top official said, after an orphanage and mosque were burnt down.
Police fired warning shots to disperse rioters after the fresh Buddhist-Muslim clashes in the town of Lashio in Shan state, according to presidential spokesman Ye Htut.
“The deceased was hacked to death with a knife,” Ye Htut told AFP, adding that the security forces were taking action to halt the unrest.
Several episodes of religious violence have exposed deep rifts in the Buddhist-majority country.
Residents said mobs armed with sticks were roaming the streets of Lashio looking for Muslims on Wednesday, while an AFP reporter saw two houses ablaze.
A local hospital confirmed it had received four injured men, all Buddhists.
One of the wounded, 41-year-old Myint Naing, was seen lying in the hospital, wrapped in bandages.
Security forces had imposed an overnight curfew Tuesday after the initial unrest, which authorities said was triggered by an attack on a local Buddhist woman.
A 48-year-old Muslim man was arrested over that incident, in which the 24-year-old woman suffered burns but was not in serious condition, according to state broadcaster MRTV.
A Muslim orphanage, a mosque and several shops were destroyed by rioters, a different government official said, requesting anonymity.
Ye Htut, who earlier appealed for calm, posted pictures of police making arrests in the town yesterday as they tried to quell a second eruption of violence that he said saw “conflict from both sides.”
“The security forces are taking action against people who are involved in the violence in order to stop the fighting in Lashio,” he said.
Fear rippled through the streets yesterday, with terrified Muslim residents describing a 30-strong group of men with weapons on motorcycles cruising Lashio and shouting anti-Muslim slogans.
The residents said there was not enough security in the town.
“Almost all Muslims are trying to stay in safe places.... we don’t know how we are going to get through the night,” one resident said by telephone, asking not to be named.
He said the mob of bikers was threatening to “kill any Muslims they see on the road.”
Religious unrest in the former army-ruled nation has caused global alarm. US President Barack Obama last week voiced “deep concern” about anti-Muslim attacks, during a landmark visit to Washington by President Thein Sein.
Nyan Win, a spokesman for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, said the party believed outsiders were whipping up the violence in Lashio.