Report: Myanmar rebels kidnap civilians from police base

Myanmar state media report three people were killed and seven civilians abducted in an attack on a police installation that authorities blame on the Arakan Army rebel group

YANGON, Myanmar -- Three people were killed and seven civilians abducted in an attack on a police installation in western Myanmar that authorities blame on the Arakan Army rebel group, media reported Thursday.

A report in the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said about 200 insurgents, who claim to represent the Rakhine ethnic minority in the western state of Rakhine, attacked a security police headquarters in Mrauk-U town on Tuesday night.

Rakhine is best known for a brutal counterinsurgency campaign by the military against the Muslim Rohingya minority, which caused more than 700,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. But while Rohingya insurgents have been largely inactive for more than a year, the Arakan Army has been engaged in increasingly fierce fighting with government forces since late last year.

The Arakan Army, which is aligned with Rakhine's Buddhist population, seeks autonomy for the region, and is seemingly bigger and better armed and organized than its Muslim rivals.

The government declared the Arakan Army a terrorist organization after it killed 13 police officers and wounded nine in attacks on Jan. 4.

Earlier this month, the U.N. main human rights agency expressed concern about the upsurge in fighting between Myanmar's army and the Arakan Army's guerrillas, especially attacks on civilians by both sides.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the agency had "credible reports of the killing of civilians, burning of houses, arbitrary arrests, abductions, indiscriminate fire in civilian areas, and damage to cultural property."

Thursday's report said the police base attackers abducted four women and three children and that one officer's family member was killed, while two policemen died and seven were reported missing. It said the insurgents retreated after around six hours once Myanmar soldiers arrived to reinforce the police.

Separately, the military's information office announced that 23 suspected Arakan Army members were arrested in a village as part of a sweep against the insurgent group.