The Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA), a small group of men fighting in Myanmar’s western region of Rakhine, have rejected accusations they have links with al-Qaeda, ISIL or other armed groups; and warned foreign fighters against entering the troubled region.
In a statement released on Thursday, ARSA said it had “no links with al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), Lashkar-e-Taiba or any other transnational terrorist group”.
In its statement, ARSA used ISIS to refer to the armed group ISIL.
It said it did not welcome the involvement of any of those entities in the conflict and called on countries in the region “to prevent terrorists from entering Arakan and making a bad situation worse”.
Arakan is another term for Rakhine, the western state of Myanmar where most of the country’s 800,000 Rohingya Muslims live.
The statement also said the group was concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Rakhine and called on aid groups and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) to visit the area and provide life-saving assistance to those that had been affected by the violence.
Witnesses said that entire Rohingya villages had been burned to the ground since the start of the security forces’ operation, while Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general, gave warning of the risk of ethnic cleansing, appealing to the country’s authorities to end violence against the majority-Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine.
The Myanmar army has put the death toll at around 400, saying most of those killed were fighters. Residents, however, say it is in excess of 3,000 people.
Despite facing decades of oppression, the predominantly Muslim Rohingya had largely refrained from violence.