ARAKAN – A group of Buddhist mobs have attacked the last standing mosque in Arakan’s Kyauk Phyu city, damaging the worshipping house severely and destroying its minaret.
"Yesterday evening, we heard about some people attempting to destroy the mosque and this morning, I went to look at it and saw that some damage had been done,” Htun Naing of the Kyaukphyu Public Network told the Democratic Voice of Burma on Tuesday, November 19.
The attack started on Monday evening when a group of Buddhists gathered to celebrate the full moon festival.
Expressing concerns about the latest visit by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), they attacked the mosque destroying its minaret at about 8 PM.
By 10:45 PM, seventy five percent of the mosque building was destroyed.
The attack comes in the wake of OIC's delegation Four-day visit to Burma, which has concluded last Saturday.
“Buddhist Arakanese locals] were planning to stage a protest, when the OIC came to visit, to oppose its plan to open an office in the town and I guess the incident yesterday could be connected to this,” said Naing.
Ahead of OIC's visit last week hundreds of Buddhists took onto the streets last Tuesday to protest against the visit, accusing the organization of being 'biased'.
Last Friday, about 5,000 Buddhists staged a demonstration against OIC visit in Arakan's capital Sittwe.
OIC delegation to Burma included members from Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Djibouti and Bangladesh.
After the delegation visit OIC secretary general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu was moved to tears by the emotional visit saying: “I’ve never had such a feeling”.
During the visit Ihsanoglu received guarantees from the government to resolve the dilemma of citizenship of more than 800,000 Rohingya Muslims.
In October 2012, OIC tried to open an office in Burma to help Muslims there, but the move was blocked by President Thein Sein following massive protests by Buddhist monks.
Though Monday’s attack resulted in destroying the last safe mosque in the state, Arakan officials minimized the effects of the Buddhist attacks on Muslims.
“It wasn’t that serious – we just had to disperse a mob heading for the mosque,” an official from the Kyaukphyu police station claimed.
“We still don’t know who they were as it was the [Tasaungdai] festival yesterday evening but we are making a list of individuals who might know the [attackers],” the official added.
Arakan government spokesperson, Win Myaing, has also reflected a similar tone.
"It was just a group of men – maybe about 10 – who got drunk on the full moon night and threw rocks at a derelict mosque,” said Win Myaing.
According to Rohingya Blogger (RB), police forces did not interfere to ban the mobs from destroying the mosque.
Yet, after the incident, police intensified security around the mosque, Naing noted.
Muslims in Burma and have been facing repeated attacks by Buddhists in recent months.
Since June, hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been forced to flee their homes in western Burma after attacks from Buddhist mobs on their areas.
The anti-Muslim violence spread to central Burma earlier this year, leaving scores of people dead.
The violence has displaced nearly 29,000 people, more than 97% of whom are Rohingya Muslims, according to the United Nations.
Many now live in camps, adding to 75,000 mostly Rohingya displaced in June 2012, after a previous explosion of sectarian violence.
Burma’s Muslims -- largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent -- account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population.
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