BANGKOK (AP) — Armed with machetes and rifles, a ragtag band of insurgents comprised of members of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority launched unprecedented attacks last week, triggering fighting with security forces that has left more than 100 people dead and forced at least 18,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.
Here’s a closer look at the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the group that claimed responsibility for the attacks:
THE ORIGINS OF ARSA:
The group was formed last year by Rohingya exiles living in Saudi Arabia, according to the International Crisis Group, which detailed ARSA’s origins in a report last year. It is led by Attullah Abu Amar Jununi, a Pakistani-born Rohingya who grew up in Mecca, and a committee of about 20 Rohingya emigres. ICG says there are indications Jununi and others received militant training in Pakistan and possibly Afghanistan.
ARSA is believed to receive funding from the Rohingya diaspora and donors in Saudi Arabia, as well as other parts of the Middle East, ICG says.
Analysts blame Myanmar’s government for the conditions that led to the group’s creation. Successive governments in the predominantly Buddhist country have denied the Rohingya basic rights and citizenship, deeming most of them to be foreign invaders from Bangladesh, even though Rohingya have lived in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for generations. Bangladesh also rejects them.
The lack of a political solution to their plight, particularly after anti-Muslim violence in 2012 displaced more than 120,000 Rohingya, helped sow the seeds for armed rebellion. The disenfranchisement of Rohingya in the 2015 election, and a regional crackdown on human trafficking that cut off an escape by sea also left Myanmar’s Rohingya feeling boxed in.
THE ESCALATION OF THE VIOLENCE:
In ARSA’s first known operation, on Oct. 9, 2016, hundreds of Rohingya men armed with knives, slingshots and rifles attacked three separate police posts in Rakhine state, killing nine officers.
The army responded…