At least six members of a Buddhist ethnic minority have been found been dead in Myanmar's Rakhine state, with two others still missing, the government and regional sources said.
Security forces discovered on Thursday the bodies of three men and three women bearing machete and gunshot wounds in the Mayu mountain range near the town of Maungdaw, the office of Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said.
The statement said "extremists" were responsible for killing the six members of the Mro minority from the village of Kaigyi. Residents believe the suspects stumbled upon a camp for Rohingya Muslim militants.
Security forces had begun an "intensive clearance operation" to hunt the killers, a military officer in Rakhine said.
Two women, aged 21 and 34, are still missing from the group that ventured into the hills to tend to farms. Aung Kyaw Min, a Buddhist resident of Kaigyi, told Reuters that villagers believed the two women had also been killed because some of their bloody clothing was recovered.
"We are all suffering from this killing," he said. "All the villagers are in panic and nobody wants to live there. They all want to move to a safe place arranged by the government."
The Myanmar government regards the Rohingya as "illegal immigrants" from Bangladesh, although about 1.1 million of them live in Rakhine State. The state was plunged into violence last October when Rohingya insurgents killed nine police in coordinated attacks on border guard posts.
In the ensuing military operation, security forces allegedly shot villagers at random, raped Rohingya women and burned down houses. About 75,000 people have fled to Bangladesh and United Nations investigators who interviewed some of them said troops probably committed crimes against humanity.
Suu Kyi is refusing to cooperate with a U.N. fact-finding mission set up to look into abuses in Rakhine and elsewhere.
On Thursday, the chief of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OIC, urged Myanmar to protect the rights of the Rohingya minority and work with neighboring Muslim-majority countries to tackle a refugee crisis.
"Myanmar should sit with Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia to find a roadmap for the solution of the crisis," said Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen of the OIC.
"Myanmar can't deny the human rights of Rohingyas. We also call on the Myanmar government to ensure citizenship for the Rohingyas," he said.