At least 59 insurgents and 12 members of Myanmar’s security forces have been killed in Rakhine state after Muslim militants reportedly attacked 30 police posts and an army base.
The office of Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has announced the death toll in a statement, claiming the Rohingya people killed were fighters.
The statement said that an estimated 150 fighters staged coordinated attacks at around 1 a.m. local time in the northern Maungdaw township.
Muslim-majority northern Rakhine was plunged into violence last October when Rohingya militants killed nine border police officers, sparking a security operation beset by allegations of rape, killings and torture by government troops.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, ARSA, a group previously known as Harakah al-Yaqin, which instigated the October attacks, claimed responsibility for the most recent incident.
ARSA said in a Twitter post that the township of Rathedaung in northern Rakhine has been under "a blockade for more than two weeks, which is starving the Rohingya people to death."
"As they prepare to do the same in Maungdaw … we had to eventually step up in order to drive the Burmese colonizing forces away," it said.
The group also accused Myanmar forces of carrying out raids, killings and rape.
“When their atrocities against the innocent people have reached beyond the point of our tolerance and they were about to launch attacks on us, we had to eventually step up to defend the helpless people and ourselves,” it said. “We will continue our struggles.”
Fighting on Friday resulted in the highest-declared death toll in a single day since violence broke out last year. Myanmar recently sent hundreds of soldiers to northwestern Rakhine state in light of reports of killings.
“The military and police members are fighting back together against extremist Bengali terrorists,” Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing said in a statement on Facebook, using the state’s derogatory description for the Rohingya.
About 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims live in Rakhine, but they are denied citizenship and are seen by many officials in Myanmar as "illegal immigrants" from Bangladesh, despite claiming roots in the region that go back centuries.
Since the massive counter-offensive last year, about 87,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. United Nations investigators who interviewed some of them said troops likely committed crimes against humanity.
Friday’s attack came hours after a panel led by the former U.N. chief Kofi Annan advised the government to lift restrictions on movement and citizenship for Rohingya people if it wants to avoid fueling extremism.
Annan condemned the violence on Friday, saying “no cause can justify such brutality and senseless killing.”