YANGON (TIP): Twelve people have died in the north of Myanmar’s Rakhine state in clashes between armed men and troops, state media reported on Wednesday, in a sharp escalation of violence in the restive region.

Four soldiers and one attacker were killed on Tuesday when hundreds of men wielding pistols and swords assailed troops in Pyaungpit village, in Maungdaw township.

Troops also found seven dead along with with rudimentary weapons after fighting broke out in the nearby village of Taung Paing Nyar.

“After the incident, troops found seven dead bodies,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

“Swords and sticks were found with the bodies.” The military been scouring the region, not far from the border with Bangladesh, after nine police officers were killed on Sunday in coordinated attacks on three border posts.

Most people in the impoverished area are Muslim Rohingya, a stateless minority Buddhist nationalists vilify as illegal immigrants. The unrest has raised the spectre of a repeat of 2012 when sectarian violence ripped through Rakhine, killing more than 100 people and driving tens of thousands of Rohingya into displacement camps.