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UN presses Myanmar to probe atrocities against Rohingya

A UN report accuses security forces of carrying out horrific acts of brutality against the Muslim minority. The country's leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Sui Kyi, has vowed to investigate the allegations.

The United Nations' top human rights official said Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi vowed to investigate UN allegations of atrocities against the country's Rohingya minority.

The military, security forces and police have allegedly committed horrific acts of violence, including murdering of infants, gang rapes and burning villages in northern Rakhine state, according to the results of a UN investigation published on Friday.

Speaking from geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said he urged Suu Kyi, a  Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to take action.

Watch video 03:40

Rohingya recount murder and rape in Myanmar

"I did speak to Aung San Suu Kyi about an hour and a half ago," he said. "I called upon her to use every means available to exert pressure on the military and the security services to end this operation."

"She informed me that an investigation will be launched. She said that they would require further information."

Reports of violence in connection with the Rohingya crisis have tarnished the image of Suu Kyi's fledgling administration, which rights groups have criticized for not addressing fears of atrocities being carried out.

In Myanmar's former capital, Yangon, presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said: "These are extremely serious allegations, and we are deeply concerned. We will be immediately investigating these allegations through the investigation commission led by Vice-President U Myint Swe.

"Where there is clear evidence of abuses and violations, we will take all necessary action."

Myanmar is a mostly Buddhist country that has previously denied almost all allegations of human rights abuses against its Muslim minority in northern Rakhine, claiming instead that a lawful counterinsurgency campaign is under way.

Muslims flee to Bangladesh

Since that campaign began some four months ago, about 69,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighboring Bangladesh. The UN report was based on accounts gathered in January from 220 of them.

Watch video 01:26

Rohingya fishermen put to sea in rafts

Witnesses have testified to "the killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food".

One woman described her baby's throat being slit. Another was raped by soldiers and saw her five-year-old daughter killed.

The report said the actions by security forces likely amounted to crimes against humanity.

Zeid said the perpetrators of such "horrors" must be held to account. That could mean the establishment of an international commission of inquiry or the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

The report described "area clearance operations" - gunfire and grenades dropped on villages from helicopters - which are suspected to have killed hundreds.

Nearly half of those interviewed said a family member had been killed or had disappeared, while more than 100 women reported having been raped or subjected to sexual violence.

UN mission leader Linnea Arvidsson said testimony pointed to "a persecution on ethnic grounds which is similar to what has been, in other contexts, described as 'ethnic cleansing'."

bik/gsw (Reuters, AFP)

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