Clashes between the state and Muslim Rohingyas escalated in Rakhine State, Myanmar on Tuesday.
Myanmar soldiers – called Tatmadaws – have been accused of killing at least four men during a search through Muslim villages, after an attack on troops and police officers left 12 people dead, local media said.
"One Tatmadaw soldier was injured and four were killed by the insurgents. One was dead on the enemy side," said Ye Naing, a director at the Ministry of Information, late on Tuesday.
"After the incident, troops found seven bodies," in the nearby village of Taung Paing Nyar the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported. "Swords and sticks were found with the bodies."
In at least one instance, the hunt for suspects has led to soldiers killing residents in Maungdaw Township where an attack took place on Sunday. Officials said the residents ambushed soldiers, but locals gave an opposing account of events, saying the victims were trying to flee. Local media reported the soldiers killed four residents.
Assailants killed nine police officers in a village in Maungdaw Township on Sunday in coordinated attacks on three border posts.
Both Tuesday and Sunday’s attacks on the forces were blamed on the mostly Muslim Rohingya community. Rakhine is home to almost 1.1 million Rohingyas who are living in apartheid-like conditions.
Myanmar stepped up security in the Muslim-majority region on Monday to hunt for the attackers. In the recent clashes, a total of 29 people were killed, police and government sources said.
Rohingyas became stateless after the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law. Since then they have been seen as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. If they can prove that their ancestry dates back to 1832, when the country came under British rule, they would be eligible to become citizens of Myanmar.
In 2012, communal violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya killed around 100 people and drove tens of thousands Rohingyas into displacement camps.
According to the UN refugee agency, more than 120,000 Rohingyas have boarded ships to flee abroad in the past three years.