The faces of the men half-buried in the mass graves had been burned away by acid or blasted by bullets. Noor Kadir finally recognized his friends only by the colors of their shorts. Kadir and 14 others, all Rohingya Muslims in the Myanmar village of Gu Dar Pyin, had been choosing players for the soccer-like game of chinlone when the gunfire began. By the time the Myanmar military stopped shooting, only Kadir and two teammates were left alive. Days later, Kadir found six of his friends among the bodies in two graves. They are among at least five mass graves, all previously unreported, that have been confirmed by the AP through multiple interviews with more than two dozen survivors in Bangladesh refugee camps and through time-stamped cellphone videos. Major points from the very lengthy AP piece:
- Survivors said the soldiers carefully planned the Aug. 27 attack, and then deliberately tried to hide what they had done. They came to the slaughter armed not only with rifles, knives, rocket launchers, and grenades, but also with shovels to dig pits and acid to burn away faces and hands so that the bodies could not be identified. Two days before the attack, villagers say, soldiers were seen buying 12 large containers of acid at a nearby village's market.
- After the attack, Buddhist villagers moved through Gu Dar Pyin in a sort of mopping-up operation, using knives to cut the throats of the injured, survivors said, and working with soldiers to throw small children and the elderly into the fires.
- Eleven days after the attack, a 20-year-old farmer set out to see if the soldiers had destroyed the Quran in the village mosque. He found torn pages from the Muslim sacred book scattered about, and as he tried to clean up, someone shouted that the soldiers were coming. When he turned back to the path, he stopped abruptly: A human hand stuck out of a cleared patch of earth. He counted about 10 bodies on the grave's surface, and used a six-foot bamboo stick to check the pit's depth. The stick disappeared into the loose soil.
- The graves are the newest piece of evidence for what looks increasingly like a genocide in Myanmar's western Rakhine state against the Rohingya, a long-persecuted ethnic Muslim minority in the predominantly Buddhist country. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that the AP report "raises the stakes for the international community to demand accountability from Myanmar."
- The Myanmar government regularly claims such massacres of the Rohingya never happened, and has acknowledged only one mass grave containing 10 "terrorists" in the village of Inn Din. However, the AP says its reporting shows a systematic slaughter of Rohingya Muslim civilians by the military, with help from Buddhist neighbors—and suggests many more graves hold many more people.
- Repeated calls to Myanmar's military communications office went unanswered Wednesday and Thursday. Htun Naing, a local security police officer in Buthidaung township, where the village is located, said he "hasn't heard of such mass graves."
Read the full piece, which has many more details on the mass graves, here
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