Asia

Buddhists and Muslims clash in central Burma town

Black smoke rises from burning buildings as residents ride motorcycles in a street in riot-hit Meiktila, central Burma, on 21 March 2013
Image caption A curfew was declared in violence-hit Meiktila town

Reports from Burma say deadly rioting has taken place between Muslims and Buddhists in a central town.

At least 10 people were reported killed and mosques burned in Meiktila town, south of Mandalay, which has a large Muslim population.

Officials declared a curfew overnight in the wake of the violence.

This appears to be the most serious sectarian clash since almost 200 people were killed last year in unrest in the western state of Rakhine.

What began as an argument in a gold shop escalated quickly, with mobs setting mainly Muslim buildings alight, including some mosques, and fighting in the streets between men from the rival communities, says the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head.

While the fighting was said to have stopped, several areas of the town were still on fire, according to reports.

Win Htein, a member of the opposition National League of Democracy party, told Agence-France Presse that "more than 10 people were killed".

"The situation is getting worse. The police cannot control the people. There are groups of people on the streets with knives and sticks," a local resident also told AFP.

One of those who died was a Buddhist monk who suffered severe burns on Wednesday, police say.

A local official has been quoted as saying that relations between Muslims and the Buddhist majority have been strained by ethnic violence in Rakhine state.

Conflict erupted in Rakhine last year involving Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, who are not recognised as Burmese citizens.