The United States on Wednesday called Myanmar’s military action in northern Rakhine state “ethnic cleansing”. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US would consider targeted sanctions against those responsible for the violence against the Rohingya community. Tillerson had visited Myanmar last week.

“After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine State constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya”, Tillerson said. He blamed the country’s military and “local vigilantes” for called “intolerable suffering” the Rohingya are going through, and said “no provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued”. He added that those responsible for the violence must be “held accountable”.

This comes after months of a review process the US has held to determine if Myanmar’s actions could be deemed as ethnic cleansing, AP reported. The United Nations had termed it ethnic cleansing in September.

Last week, the Human Rights Watch said security forces in Myanmar had committed “widespread rape” of women and girls during the persecution and “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims since August. Over 6,00,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh.

Rohingyas have been denied citizenship in Myanmar and are classified as illegal immigrants. The community has been subjected to violence by the Buddhist majority and the Army in Myanmar, though the country has repeatedly denied this claim. The crisis has threatened to jeopardise Myanmar’s US-aided shift toward democracy after five decades of military rule.