A local Burmese community has been left terrified after an angry mob of 300 Buddhists attacked a Muslim school and several businesses in a suburb outside Rangoon.

It follows news that hundreds of Buddhist nationalists launched a violent assault on a religious school in Thaketa township on Sunday, after it applied for permission to have its roof repaired. Reports suggest that the mob believed the building was being developed into a mosque.

On Monday, the mob returned to ransack businesses and homes, including hurling bricks and abuse at petrified locals. The violence has spread fear and confusion among local Muslims, who say they have never before had any problems with their Buddhist neighbours. Most of the people DVB interviewed did not believe that the vandals had come from the local community.

Many local families are still too afraid to sleep in their homes and don’t understand why their community was attacked. Over 20 families reportedly fled the area, even though riot police were quickly deployed on the ground.

Police confirmed that four people were detained after the violence – none of which were identified as locals – but were released on Thursday. But Wunna Shwe insisted that both residents and outsiders were likely involved in the violence, which has the potential to trigger further religious tensions in the capital.

Reports suggest that local media, as well as prominent public personalities, played a role in stirring the hostilities. In an article published on 17 December, The Voice Weekly published accusations that a mosque was being developed and quoted inflammatory remarks by the controversial monk Wirathu, who has repeatedly spearheaded Islamophobic campaigns in Burma.

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