CAIRO - In a new wave of anti-Muslim violence in north-western Burma, Buddhist mobs have attacked and torched Muslim homes and shops in the Asian country, spreading fears of repeated sectarian violence.
"Shops and houses were destroyed, some burned down, by the mob last night," a local police officer who requested anonymity told Bangkok Post on Sunday, August 25.
Renewing religious violence in the former army-ruled nation, about 1,000 Buddhists reportedly participated in the anti-Muslim rampage that broke out shortly before Saturday's midnight.
According to police reports, the unrest erupted after a Muslim man was arrested on suspicion of attempting to rape a Buddhist woman in a village at Kanbalu in the central region of Sagaing.
About 150 people gathered at the police station last night, calling for them to hand over the detainee, a regional police official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Sunday.
When police did not respond, they started setting fire to nearby shops, the official added.
The Buddhist mob attack resulted in torching some 38 houses, nine businesses and a rice mill, all believed to belong to Muslims.
These shops are believed to be owned by Muslim people but we are still trying to confirm it. Those people who attacked are believed to be Buddhists from two local villages, the source added.
No injuries have been reported.
Sentiments against Muslims in Burma have been high last year's attacks that forced thousands of Muslims to flee their homes in western Burma.
Many of the incidents have featured widespread retaliatory violence against Muslim communities in response to accusations of seemingly isolated criminal acts.
In the latest clash, the official said the suspect allegedly approached a 25-year-old woman, grabbed her hand and attempted to rape her.
Last May, one man was killed and 10 others injured late Tuesday after Buddhist mobs attacks Muslim shops and mosques in Oakkan and nearby villages, just 60 miles north of the commercial capital Yangon
Earlier in April, more than 43 people were killed in a new bout of anti-Muslim violence in central Burma.
Buddhist monks were blamed for spreading anti-Muslim sentiments in the Asian country.
Radical Buddhist monk Wirathu blamed Muslim for the unrest in a message on his Facebook page, using term kalal; a highly derogatory word, to describe the minority.
Kalars are troublemakers. When a kalar is there, the problem will be there, he said.
If every time kalar made trouble and people response in violent ways, both Buddhists and Buddhism will be harmed, he said.
Calling himself as Buddhist Bin Laden, Wirathu's anti-Muslim and nationalist speeches have been accused of stoking the unrest.
The Buddhist monk reportedly played an active role in stirring tensions in a Rangoon suburb in February by spreading unfounded rumors that a local school was being developed into a mosque.
After several episodes of religious unrest mostly targeting Muslims rights groups have accused authorities of being unable or unwilling to contain the violence, which has left around 250 people dead and over 140,000 homeless.
Last week watchdog Physicians for Human Rights said Myanmar risked catastrophic levels of conflict with potential crimes against humanity and/or genocide if authorities failed to stem anti-Muslim hate speech and a culture of impunity around the clashes.
Burma's Muslims -- largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent -- account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population.
Muslims entered Burma en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, which ended in 1948.
But despite their long history, they have never fully been integrated into the country.