YANGON—In the latest in a string of attacks this year, a Myanmar police officer was injured when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked a police van transporting officers at the junction of Zeepin Chaung and Leikra villages in Maungdaw Township, northern Rakhine State, on Monday morning.
The state-run newspaper said two teams of ARSA insurgents attacked the police vehicle traveling from the Taungpyo (Yar) police regiment to Kyein Chaung police regiment with anti-vehicle improvised explosive devices (IEDs) before firing on the van from both sides of the road. Police then returned fire at the ARSA members.
Lance Corporal Shine Htet Aung, the van driver, was injured in his right eye, but the state-run newspaper said the wound was minor. Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) troops are active in the area, it said.
This is the third time this year ARSA has ambushed police officers. Six police officers including a police colonel were wounded in the first attack near Wat Kyein village in Maungdaw in January. In the second attack five days later, three officers were wounded in an artillery assault on police outposts near Wai Lar Taung village.
The government has denounced ARSA, a Rohingya insurgent group that launched a series of attacks on police outposts in northern Rakhine State in August 2017, as a terrorist organization. Those attacks led to military clearance operations against the insurgents that resulted in the mass exodus of the local populations of Maungdaw, Buthetaung and Rathaetaung townships in Rakhine State across the Bangladesh border. The return of some 700,000 Rohingya has been hampered partly due to ongoing fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army in the area.
On Monday evening, the group claimed responsibility for the ambush in a short video bearing ARSA’s logo that went viral on Facebook. The video has since been deleted.
Subtitled in English, the video showed armed ARSA militants waiting for the police van to trigger the IED explosion, which is immediately followed by gunshots. The armed militants cheer the attack, and can be heard saying the “genocidal Burmese military’s van is very near its final destination”. They also vow “to continue their struggle” until their “legitimate demands” are met.