Rioting and arson attacks spread on Friday to villages outside a city in central Myanmar where clashes between Buddhists and Muslims have left at least 20 people dead, according to residents, a member of Parliament and local journalists. A picture of chaos and anarchy emerged from the city of Meiktila, where mobs of Buddhists, some of them led by monks, have ransacked and burned Muslim neighborhoods since Wednesday.
A reporter for a local weekly journal, said he saw 15 charred bodies on the streets Friday morning. He estimated the death toll at more than 40.
Mobs of rioters attacked Muslims’ houses in villages outside Meiktila on Friday.
Nyan Lin, a former political prisoner, told the Mizzima news agency that the police “just stood watching the rioters, and did not take any action.”
Video footage from Meitkila posted on Friday showed harrowing scenes of what appeared to be Muslim women and men cowering as they fled the violence.
Journalists said they feared for their safety after Buddhist monks, one of them wielding a sword, forced them to hand over the memory cards in their cameras.
Muslims residents have fled the city and gathered in a sports stadium, according to Reuters.
More than 150 people, most of them Muslims, have been killed since June in Buddhist-Muslim clashes in Rakhine State, a sliver of land in western Myanmar where religious hatred runs high.
The police in Meiktila, reached by telephone, declined to comment on the violence.
Two mosques and a Muslim school were burned, residents said, and many houses in the Muslim quarter were destroyed.