Communal clashes behind murders of Myanmar men in Penang, say Malaysian police

GEORGE TOWN - Malaysian police sources said the brutal killings of 23 Myanmar workers in Penang over the last 11 months were due to communal clashes that spilled over from tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar.

The police last week arrested seven suspects from Myanmar, with the main suspect admitting to killing three of his countrymen. He blamed ethnic tensions in their home country, the Malay Mail Online news site said yesterday.

Penang police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi confirmed seven Myanmar nationals have been detained to assist in investigations.

He described the arrests as a "positive breakthrough" following the recent spike of killings involving Myanmar nationals.

A police source close to the investigations said the main suspect is a Muslim from the Arakan region of Myanmar. He was nabbed by a special police task force early last week.

It is believed the suspect confessed to having a hand in the killings and his arrest helped lead to six other suspects being nabbed later, the news site reported.

"The main suspect said six of his family members were killed during communal clashes in his home state a year ago. We are now piecing the connection between all 23 cases to see if they were linked," the police source was quoted as saying.

Police had worked for months on the case of the brutal killings, with the public showing concern that the ethnic tensions in Myanmar might have spilled into Malaysia. Police had denied there was a serial killer on the loose.

Some of the victims had their throats cut, others had deep wounds on their bodies, and many were dumped in remote areas.

Most of the victims were males aged between 20 and 40 and were abducted from their homes in Penang and dumped in plantation areas after being murdered.

Malaysian police seized several weapons - mainly knives - from the crime scenes.
Police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur formed a task force to tackle the slayings three months ago.
Sources told the Malay Mail Online the police managed to track down the six individuals who might be involved based on the phone logs of the main suspect.

"The root of the killings has been identified and we hope to wrap up investigations in the next few weeks," the source said.

Penang police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim said: "So far, they have been very cooperative. We have had some developments regarding the suspects."

The Straits Times

Police in Penang surround the body of a Myanmar man found in an oil palm estate last month. He was the 20th of 23 Myanmar nationals to have been murdered in the Malaysian state over the past 11 months. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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