Myanmar army ‘kills 13’ in counterattacks on Rakhine rebels

From left: Myanmar Army Major Generals Tun Tun Nyi, Soe Naing Oo and Major General Zaw Min Tun during a rare military press conference in Naypyidaw on Friday, January 18. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019

Myanmar army ‘kills 13’ in counterattacks on Rakhine rebels

  • Rakhine has seen new levels of violence in recent weeks between the Arakan insurgents fighting for greater autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and security forces
  • ‘We got 13 dead bodies of enemies and seized three weapons’

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Myanmar’s army said Friday it killed 13 ethnic Rakhine fighters in counterstrikes after the well-armed group carried out deadly attacks on police posts earlier this month.
Rakhine state has seen new levels of violence in recent weeks between the Arakan Army (AA) — insurgents fighting for greater autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists — and security forces.
Many of the battles are taking place in the same region from which more than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh after August 2017 when the army launched a crackdown the UN deemed ethnic cleansing.
The AA are a more formidable force than the fighters claiming to represent the Rohingya and have inflicted historically higher death tolls on the military.
On January 4, also Myanmar’s independence day, the AA launched pre-dawn raids that killed 13 police officers and wounded nine before the army stepped in, setting off violence that has displaced thousands.
But the army hit back, killing the same number of AA rebels in total in operations from January 5-16.
“We got 13 dead bodies of enemies and seized three weapons,” Major General Tun Tun Nyi said in a rare press conference in the capital Naypyidaw.
“Some officers and soldiers from our side were killed,” he added, without releasing the figures.
Myanmar’s military almost never provides statistics on casualties suffered in fighting against the country’s myriad ethnic armed groups.
The army called a temporary cease-fire against different insurgents in northern Myanmar last month but Rakhine state was excluded from the move because of the AA and the Rohingya militant group, which is called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
The troubled state is a complex patchwork of Rakhine, Rohingya, and other ethnic minorities that intercommunal violence has largely driven apart.
Most of the Rohingya in the northern part of the state have been pushed into Bangladesh, where they refuse to return to Myanmar without guarantees of safety and citizenship.
The United Nations has called for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide as a result of the operations but they reject the accusation.
The fighting with AA rebels complicates an already fraught repatriation process for the Rohingya.
Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun blamed the AA insurgents for the police post attacks earlier this month and accused them of “stabbing from the back.”


Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

Updated 22 August 2019

Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

  • The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday
  • Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month

DOHA: The US and the Taliban met in Doha on Thursday, an American source close to the talks said, for potentially decisive dialogue to allow Washington to drawdown militarily in Afghanistan.
The source said the talks started around 1300 GMT — the ninth time the two foes have met face-to-face.
The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday, blasts rocked Jalalabad Monday, and the death toll from a weekend wedding bombing reached 80.
Washington’s top commander in Afghanistan General Scott Miller was at the talks venue, according to an AFP correspondent.
The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, wants to withdraw thousands of troops but only in return for the insurgent group renouncing Al-Qaeda and curbing attacks.
Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls due in 2020.
Taliban lead negotiator Abbas Stanikzai told AFP Thursday that overall talks had been “going well.”
The talks are expected to focus on establishing a timeline for the US withdrawal of its more than 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“We’ve been there for 18 years, it’s ridiculous,” US President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday.
“We are negotiating with the government and we are negotiating with the Taliban,” he said.
“We have good talks going and we will see what happens.”
But the thorny issues of power-sharing with the Taliban, the role of regional powers including Pakistan and India, and the fate of Afghanistan’s incumbent administration remain unresolved.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad sought to bolster optimism for a peace agreement last week when he said in a tweet that he hoped this is the final year that the country is at war.