By Dildar Baykan and Ayse Humeyra Atilgan
Nearly 214 villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been completely destroyed, satellite images released by an international rights body revealed on Tuesday.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the images were captured last Saturday and reveal massive destruction in the area.
"They show the destruction of tens of thousands of homes across Maungdaw and Rathedaung Townships, part of the Burmese [Myanmar] security forces’ campaign of ethnic cleansing that has forced over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh," the New York-based organization said in an online statement.
It added the new images showed more than 90 percent of the structures in each village were damaged.
"The images corroborate accounts gathered by Human Right Watch from refugees who have described arson, killing, and looting by the Burmese military, police, and ethnic Rakhine mobs," the statement read.
Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the images "provide shocking evidence of massive destruction in an apparent attempt by Burmese security forces to prevent the Rohingya from returning to their villages."
Robertson urged world leaders meeting at the UN to act to end this mounting crisis and show Myanmar's military leaders they will pay a price for such atrocities.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
Last October, following attacks on border posts in Rakhine's Maungdaw district, security forces launched a five-month crackdown in which, according to Rohingya groups, around 400 people were killed.
The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.
421,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed from Myanmar to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, the UN said on Tuesday.
The refugees are fleeing a fresh security operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages. According to Bangladesh, around 3,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown.