Sectarian riots engulf Myanmar's second-largest city with two dying

(Photo: REUTERS / Aung Pyae)Buddhist monks walk during a prayer ceremony for the victims of unrest in Mandalay, at Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon July 4, 2014. Hundreds of Buddhists threatened to kill Muslims as they rode on motorcycles through Myanmar's second-largest city of Mandalay on Friday, raising the prospect of further communal violence after two people died in unrest earlier in the week.

Two men have died after sectarian tensions engulfed Myanmar's second-largest for two straight nights.

The Myanmar s government is grappling with religious rioting that has pitted members of the Buddhist majority and the Rohingya Muslim minority against each other.

Violent clashes erupted in Mandalay early Thursday, Ucan News reported, and as well as the two people who died, 14 were hurt.

Thousands of people converged on Mandalay on Friday for the funeral of the Buddhist victim of sectarian clashes that have hit the city,Channel News Asia reported.

Motor cycles led a procession carrying the coffin of the 36-year-old Buddhist man through Mandalay,with anger on both sides of the conflict simmering.

Mandalay regional security official Aung Kyaw Moe said authorities arrested four people for instigating Thursday's riot.

The official said the investigation is ongoing, and he expected more arrest to follow.

The victims were identified as Soe Min, 51, a Muslim, and Tun Tun, 36, a Buddhist.

A volunteer for a free funeral service in the city, Tun rode with a friend on motorbikes when a mob blocked their path and began attacking them.

Tun did not know what happened to his friend.

Soe was purportedly making his way to pray at a mosque there when he was attacked early Thursday. His injuries were seen in photos that circulated on social media and he died of the wounds he sustained in the attack.

The official report said police arrested four suspects on charges of public misconduct and destruction of public property. The charges are not related to the deaths of the two victims.

Later in the day, Mandalay Chief Minister Ye Myint gathered the city's religious leaders and sought assistance from them to help authorities bring peace in the city.

"Our first priority is to create stability in Mandalay, then our second set of priorities are to arrest the people involved in the mob attacks, and then take action regardless of religion and race," he said.

Tension simmered in Mandalay from Tuesday after reports in social media claimed a Buddhist girl had been raped by two Muslims in a teashop. The information went viral and was shared by a known hardline Buddhist monk called Wirathu.

Buddhist mobs armed with sticks and knives marched toward the Sun Teashop on Tuesday night. But police managed to disperse the crowd with rubber bullets.

The State-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar said the owner, Nay Win, would be charged with rape.

Myanmar has experienced sectarian violence from 2012, often with Buddhist mobs targeting Rohingya minority communities who are Muslims.

Of Myanmar's 56 million people 89 percent are Buddhists, four percent are Muslims and Christians make up 4 percent.

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