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The United States has announced sanctions on Burmese military Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and three other military leaders due to their role in the “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya minority.

The State Department said on Tuesday it took action after finding credible evidence they were involved in the violence two years ago that led about 740,000 Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh.

“With this announcement, the United States is the first government to publicly take action with respect to the most senior leadership of the Burmese military,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

“We remain concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and there are continued reports of the Burmese military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country,” he added.

Also sanctioned were Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, Brigadier General Than Oo and Brigadier General Aung Aung, as well as the families of all four officers.

Buddhist-majority Burma refuses to grant the mostly Muslim Rohingya citizenship or basic rights and refers to them as “Bengalis”, inferring that the Rohingya are undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh.

United Nations investigators say the violence warrants the prosecution of top generals for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court has started a preliminary probe.

Pompeo repeated the 2017 finding of his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, that the killings amounted to “ethnic cleansing” – while stopping short of using the term genocide.

Pompeo voiced particular outrage that Burma in May ordered the release of seven soldiers convicted of killing Rohingya villagers, serving less time than two Reuters journalists jailed for more than 500 days after exposing the deaths.

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He called it an “egregious example of the continued and severe lack of accountability for the military and its senior leadership”.

The sanctions notably do not affect Aung San Suu Kyi, the former political prisoner who has risen to become the country’s de-facto civilian ruler.

The Nobel laureate has been criticised over her “indifference” to the atrocities committed by the military against the Rohingya, considered “the most prosecuted minority in the world”.

The sanctions are the most visible sign of US disappointment with Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, since it launched political reforms in 2011, with the military rulers reconciling with Washington and eventually allowing an elected political leadership.

Read more from source: Al Jazeera