Myanmar Rakhine state clashes
Police forces prepare to patrol in Maungdaw township in Rakhine state, northeast Myanmar Reuters

Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has pledged a thorough probe into ongoing clashes in the restive Rakhine state. Fighting between the military and armed men has intensified in the politically sensitive and unstable region, which borders Bangladesh, claiming scores of lives.

Speaking to reporters during a joint conference with Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw, she said: "We will conduct a fair and square [investigation] under the rule of law. As long as we are not clear what is what, we won't accuse anyone. When there is solid evidence, we will indict if we think it should be done."

The raging violence in the region, home to a large number of persecuted Rohingya Muslims which is already scarred by bloody sectarian unrest, poses a major challenge to the Myanmar government, the first democratically elected in decades.

Security forces said a few suspects have been apprehended and are being questioned over the clashes.

With the death toll mounting, it is still unclear how many have been killed as local reports put the figure from tens to dozens. The Myanmar military said 10 people were killed in northern Rakhine. "As the military troops followed (a group of men) they started to attack, shooting with guns, using sticks and knives. The attackers retreated to the northwest as the military returned fire. Ten dead bodies of violent attackers and a gun were found," the military was quoted as saying.

The violence erupted after three police posts were attacked by about 250 armed men killing nine police officers on Sunday (9 October) setting off a series of attacks and reprisals. The attackers' affiliation remains unknown.

Up to 14 Rohingya organisations issued a statement condemning the violence. Most of the inhabitants of Rakhine region are Rohingya Muslims, often regarded as a stateless ethnic minority and branded as illegal immigrants.

In 2012, similar sectarian clashes claimed more than 100 lives and forced tens of thousands of ethnic Rohingyas to flee the region.