YANGON—Six policemen, including one police colonel, were wounded during an ambush by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Wednesday in northern Rakhine State, according to an announcement on State media on Saturday.
Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) announced on Saturday that a police van with security forces from No. 2 Border Guard Police Headquarters on board was attacked near Wat Kyein Village in Maungdaw Township. The government said ARSA, a Rohingya insurgent group which also launched serial attacks on police outposts in northern Rakhine State in 2017, was behind the ambush. The group has been denounced by the government as a terrorist organization since the 2017 attacks.
Despite the attack taking place a few days ago, the government’s announcement came only after a short video allegedly recorded at the scene went viral online early on Saturday. The footage includes the date of the attack and bears an ARSA logo.
The video shows well-equipped masked men in camouflage—unlike those which appeared in previous videos released by the group—holding AK-47 rifles and opening fire on a passing police van. The footage was aired on MRTV with a Myanmar translation of what the gunman says after the attack: “Our ARSA (launched the attack) on January 16, 2019 as God orders to kill security forces.”
A police report earlier on Saturday blamed the attack on the Arakan Army, a Rakhine rebel group currently fighting against government forces in the same region for greater autonomy. However, the report originally posted on Ye Zarni, the official police force Facebook page, was removed on Sunday morning.
The government spokesperson was not available for comments.
If the ambush was carried out by ARSA as the government claims, this attack would be the first the group has carried out since 2017. In August 2017, an attack by ARSA on police outposts in northern Rakhine resulted in government security forces launching massive clearance operations in the area and prompting an exodus of nearly 700,000 Rohingya to flee to nearby Bangladesh. Those who fled accused the security forces of rape, arbitrary killing and arson.