MANDALAY, Burma – Wielding knives, swords and bamboo poles, hundreds of extremist Buddhists have roamed the country’s second largest city of Mandalay, threatening to kill all Muslims after similar violence earlier this week resulted in the death of two people.
"We're going to kill all the Muslims," some shouted as they rode through the streets after attending the funeral of a Buddhist man stabbed to death on Wednesday night, Reuters reported on Friday, July 4.
Violence erupted earlier this week when about 300 Buddhists including 30 monks attacked a Muslim-owned teashop in the area over an alleged rape of a Buddhist woman by Muslim men.
The Buddhists, who threw stones at Muslim properties, have ransacked several Muslim-owned shops, homes, and a mosque, damaging at least three cars and injuring several residents in knife attacks.
On Friday, police erected barriers lined with barbed wire to block roads into a predominantly Muslim neighborhood to prevent Buddhists on motorcycles from entering.
Yet, they did not disarm the Buddhists who had been riding around the city since midday, screaming threats and singing the national anthem.
A man was seen distributing bamboo poles from a car parked near the royal palace, a popular tourist attraction in the city of about a million people.
Allowing Buddhists to parade with their weapons and hateful protests, police arrested five Muslims on Friday after police searched homes nearby and found ceremonial knives.
"Police definitely know these are used for ceremonial purposes," said Ossaman, the imam of Mandalay's largest mosque, told Reuters.
"They were not breaking any law."
A police officer confirmed the arrests but refused to provide further details and asked that his name be withheld as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Burma’s Muslims -- largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent -- account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population.
Muslims from around the world are fasting from dawn to dusk during the holy month of Ramadan which started earlier this week.
Muslims entered Burma en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, which ended in 1948.
But despite their long history, they have never fully been integrated into the country, widely considered as foreigners.
This week’s violence is not the first to target the religious minority in Burma.
In 2012, scores of Muslims were killed and thousands were forced to flee their homes after sectarian clashes with the Buddhist majority in the western state of Rakhine.
Most of the victims were Muslim Rohingya and many remain in camps they are not allowed to leave.
Rights groups have accused the Burmese security forces of killing, raping and arresting Rohingyas following the violence.
In April 2013, more than 40 people were killed and several mosques were burnt in central Burma after a dispute between Muslims and Buddhists in Meikhtila.
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