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Myanmar’s military government denies allegations by ethnic army foe that it killed 76 villagers

BANGKOK (AP) — A spokesperson for Myanmar’s military government denied accusations that army troops and their local allies killed 76 people when they entered a village last week in the western state of Rakhine, state-controlled media reported Wednesday.

Rakhine has become a focal point for Myanmar’s nationwide civil war, in which pro-democracy guerrillas and ethnic minority armed forces battle the country’s military rulers, who took power in 2021 after the army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The fighting there has also raised fears of a revival of organized violence against members of the Muslim Rohingya minority, similar to that which drove at least 740,000 members of their community in 2017 to f lee to neighboring Bangladesh for safety.

The accusations of a massacre in Byine Phyu village in northern Rakhine were made by the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed organization that has been on the offensive against army outposts in Rakhine since November last year. They have gained control of nine of 17 townships in Rakhine and one in the adjacent Chin state.

Byine Phyu village is on the outskirts of Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, in a strategic location with easy access to the Bay of Bengal.

The Arakan Army is the well-trained and well-armed military wing of the political movement of the Buddhist Rakhine minority, which seeks autonomy from Myanmar’s central government.

However, it has also been accused of major human rights violations, most notably in connection with its capture of the town of Buthidaung on May 18. It was accused of forcing the town’s estimated 200,000 residents, mostly from the Rohinyga ethnic minority, to leave and then setting fire to most of the buildings there.

It denies the charges,