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Police line streets of Mandalay after fresh riots

Police officers are lining the streets of Mandalay after violence between Buddhists and Muslims broke out on Tuesday night.

A group of monks on motorbikes convened with a crowd of marching Buddhists on the corner of 26th and 80th streets in Chan Aye Tharzan Township, Mandalay between 9 and 11pm, in search of a Muslim teashop owner, police said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

The mob surrounded the Sun Teashop, at the corner of 27th and 82nd streets, where they started throwing bricks and stones and smashing windows.

Riot police were called to intervene, and fired rubber bullets into the air at around midnight. Local Buddhist monks arrived on the scene and managed to briefly calm the crowd, but the mob regrouped about half an hour later.

The crowd was finally dispersed at around 3am although groups of people carried on shouting through the night.

At least four people, including one policeman, have been injured.

Several Muslim-owned shops, homes and a mosque were ransacked, and at least three cars were damaged.

The violence kicked off after a blogger, who writes under the name Thit Htoo Lwin, posted an article on 30 June accusing two Muslim owners of the Sun Teashop of raping a Buddhist woman, who he said was their maid.

The story was picked up by several websites, and nationalist monk Wirathu posted it to his Facebook page.

The post has since been removed.

Rumours of the alleged rape spread through social media and was enough to trigger calls to ransack the teashop.

Police have not confirmed whether the two men will be charged for rape in a court of law. Current whereabouts of the accused are unknown.

Tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Mandalay have been high since a rash of ethno-religious violence erupted in mid-2012. The violence spread to Mandalay Division in March 2013, when two days of rioting left more than 40 people dead and about 8,000 displaced.