Five hurt, shops and mosque damaged in Myanmar violence

An angry mob take to the streets of Mandalay in central Myanmar early on 2 July 2014 A mob that included monks gathered on the streets of Mandalay in the early hours of Wednesday

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Five people have been injured in clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar's second city of Mandalay.

The incident was apparently triggered by a claim that a Buddhist woman had been raped by one or more Muslim men.

Armed groups gathered on the streets on Tuesday evening, hurling rocks and bricks and damaging shops. They only dispersed early on Wednesday morning when the police fired rubber bullets.

Myanmar has seen several outbreaks of violence targeting Muslims since 2012.

Muslims are a minority group in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher says tensions rose when a blogger posted that a Buddhist woman had been raped. The post was then shared by one of Mandalay's most controversial monks - Ashin Wirathu - on his Facebook page.

Wirathu is the leader of the controversial 969 group and was previously jailed for inciting religious hatred. The 969 group are opposed to what they see as Islam's expansion in Myanmar.

On Tuesday evening, a group of Buddhists gathered in a Muslim area of Mandalay, ransacking shops and burning vehicles, according to reports.

Throughout the night, the police kept angry groups of Buddhist and Muslim men apart, says our correspondent.

Both sides were armed with primitive weapons including iron rods, sticks and swords. Four rioters and a policeman were hurt. Muslim shops were damaged and the windows of a mosque were smashed.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mandalay police said a man had been charged with rape.

Myanmar police force stand guard on the street of Mandalay in central Myanmar early on 2 July 2014. Mandalay police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowds early Wednesday morning
Controversial Buddhist monk Wirathu (centre) who is accused of instigating sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims through his sermons, stands with other monks in support of five Buddhist monks who were forced to give up their robes outside a courthouse in Yangon, Myanmar, on 20 June 2014. Wirathu (C) is accused of instigating violence between Buddhists and Muslims through his sermons
Rohingya women and their children wait to receive treatment at a makeshift clinic in the Thet Kae Pyin camp for internally displaced people in Sittwe, Rakhine state, 24 April 2014. Many Rohingya Muslims are displaced in Rakhine state and are now living in refugee camps
Rakhine violence

Much of the violence between the two groups has taken place in Rakhine state in the west of the country, where at least 200 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced in 2012.

Many of the displaced - mostly Muslims - continue to live in refugee camps.

Those clashes were sparked by the rape and murder of a young Buddhist woman.

The violence continued throughout 2013. The last reported clash happened in January in Rakhine state, killing more than 40 people, according to the United Nations.

There have been particularly bitter and long-standing tensions between the Rakhine people, who are Buddhist and make up the majority of the state's population, and Muslims.

Most of these Muslims identify themselves as Rohingya, a group that is considered stateless and is rejected by both Myanmar and neighbouring Bangladesh.

The clashes have posed a challenge for Myanmar's nominally civilian government, which was elected in 2010 after decades of military rule.

President Thein Sein has previously said that the Rakhine violence puts the country's moves towards democracy in danger.

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