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Myanmar Buddhists killed more than 40 Muslims: UN

YANGON, Myanmar -- The United Nations has confirmed that at least 48 Muslims appear to have been killed when Buddhist mobs attacked a village in an isolated corner of western Myanmar, a massacre that has been the vehemently denied by the government since it was first reported by The Associated Press just over a week ago.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said he “strongly objects” to the U.N. claims and that the facts and figures were “totally wrong.”

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million people, has been grappling with sectarian violence since June 2012.

The incident in Du Chee Yar Tan, a village in northern Rakhine state, appears to be the deadliest in a year, and would bring the total number of mostly Muslims killed in violence nationwide to more than 280. Another 250,000 people have fled their homes.

Northern Rakhine — home to 80 percent of the country's 1 million long-persecuted Muslim Rohingya population — is off-limits to foreign journalists and humanitarian aid workers have limited access, adding to the difficulties of confirming details about the violence. Attacks began Jan. 9 and peaked in the early hours of Jan. 14, according to residents.

Buddhist Rakhine mobs, seeking retaliation for the abduction and killing of a police officer by Rohingya villagers, entered under the cloak of darkness with knives, sticks and guns and went on a killing spree, residents in the area told the AP on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals. Many of the victims were women and children, hacked to death by the mobs, they said.

The humanitarian aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, said it has treated 22 patients, some with wounds. It appealed to the government for safe access to the affected populations, many of whom are still in hiding.

Though the village has been sealed off by security forces, Matthew Smith of Fortify Rights, an independent human rights group, said some residents have been able to return during the day and, as of Wednesday, reported that some bodies were seen in abandoned homes. He called for an end to mass arrests, saying that in the hours that followed the killings, riot police started rounding up all male Rohingya, including children over the age of 10, in surrounding areas.

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