Myanmar Says Muslim Group in Northwest Trained by Taliban

YANGON, Myanmar - Myanmar's military junta claimed to have crushed an armed Muslim separatist group, which it said was trained by Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers and in Middle Eastern terrorist camps.

The government "vigorously confronted the activities of this group threatening the national as well as regional security," said government spokesman Col. Hla Min in a statement issued Wednesday.

Hla Min gave no details of the crackdown on the separatists from the Rohingya minority community, and did not provide evidence to back the allegations about their Afghan and Middle Eastern links. The claim could not be independently verified.

Hla Min's statement was aimed at showing that Myanmar, a pariah among Western nations, was an active participant in the global war against terrorism Myanmar is a member of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, which signed an anti-terrorism pact with the United States on August 1.

"The government of Myanmar is committed to fight against all forms of terrorism and will work with our ASEAN partners and the United States in its effort of cooperation," Hla Min said.

Several Rohingya Muslim rebel groups are based in Arakan, a Muslim-majority region of Myanmar on the border with predominantly Islamic Bangladesh. The Rohingyas have been fighting for decades for a separate state, accusing Myanmar's predominantly Buddhist military of persecution, rape and forced labor.

Hla Min's statement said even though all religions enjoy equal rights in Myanmar, an armed Muslim terrorist group had issued a unilateral declaration of independence.

"We then subsequently learned that some of these individuals were actually trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan, as well as in the terrorist training camps in the Middle East," he said.

Many of the guerrillas have given up terrorism and are now in "full cooperation with the government," he said.

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