Myanmar military air strikes on ethnic rebel group kill around 50: rebel spokesman

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Myanmar military air strikes on a concert held by a major ethnic rebel group killed around 50 people and wounded 70, the rebels said on Monday.

A number of Myanmar’s myriad ethnic rebel groups have come out in support of anti-coup fighters since last year’s putsch, offering shelter and training while themselves clashing with the junta.

Around 8:40 pm (1440 GMT) Sunday, two Myanmar military jets attacked a ceremony the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) was holding, its spokesman Colonel Naw Bu told AFP.

“Around 50 people were killed including KIA members and civilians,” he said, adding that around 70 were wounded.

Local media reported that up to 60 soldiers and civilians had been killed, including singers who had been performing at the event in Hpakant township in the country’s north.

Images shared by local media purported to show the aftermath, with debris littering the ground.

The United Nations’ office in Myanmar said it was “deeply concerned and saddened by reports of airstrikes that took place in Hpakant, Kachin State”.

“Initial reports suggest that over 100 civilians may have been affected by the bombing,” it said in a statement.

“Numerous fatalities have also been reported,” it added.

A junta spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The US Embassy in Yangon said it was “following reports of a military airstrike targeting a Kachin gathering resulting in the deaths of a large number of civilians”.

Amnesty International called the strike “part of a pattern of unlawful aerial attacks by the military which have killed and injured civilians in areas controlled by armed groups”.

The KIA has clashed regularly with the military for decades, with heavy fighting erupting in the wake of last year’s coup.

Last May, it said it downed a military helicopter gunship during fierce clashes near the town of Momauk in the far north.

– Escalating violence –

Myanmar has been in turmoil since a military coup last year, with swathes of the country engulfed by fighting.

Reports of the strikes come days before Southeast Asian foreign ministers will hold emergency talks to discuss Myanmar ahead of November’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ summit.

The ASEAN has spearheaded so far fruitless efforts to resolve the crisis, and the bloc is frustrated by escalating human rights atrocities.

In September, at least 11 schoolchildren died in a military strike on a Myanmar village in northern Sagaing region.

The junta said it had sent troops in helicopters to Let Yet Kone after receiving a tip-off that fighters from the KIA and a local anti-coup militia were moving weapons.

More than 2,300 people have been killed in the military’s crackdown on dissent since the coup and over 15,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

The junta blames anti-coup fighters for the deaths of almost 3,900 civilians.

Myanmar rebels attack key border town
Yangon (AFP) Oct 21, 2022 – Ethnic Karen rebels in Myanmar attacked a key town near the Thai border on Friday, residents and local media said, with the military junta calling in air strikes.

The Karen National Union (KNU) has been a vocal opponent of the military coup last year, and has provided shelter to dissidents working to oust the junta.

Its fighters, along with anti-coup “People’s Defence Forces” have clashed sporadically with the military along the Thai border, sending thousands fleeing across the frontier for safety.

Friday’s fighting began at 7 am (0100 GMT) in Kawkareik, which sits on the road to a major border crossing with Thailand, a resident who requested anonymity told AFP.

The fighting was ongoing, they said, adding it appeared “armed groups” were trying to attack government offices.

“We are hearing heavy weapon shelling,” they said, adding that three civilians were killed, and at least 15 were sent to hospital.

A KNU spokesman said its fighters were battling junta troops at various locations around the town.

The military called in multiple air strikes to support its troops on the ground, he said.

Both sides suffered casualties, he added, without providing details.

“We are hiding in the basement,” a resident of the town told AFP.

“Just in front of my eyes, I saw a vendor killed in an explosion.”

Other injured people were taken to hospital, they said.

A resident of a nearby town told AFP they had heard repeated artillery fire.

“About four jet fighters have flown across the sky many times,” they said, requesting anonymity.

“We are frightened. Some people are leaving the town for safety.”

Local media reported KNU fighters that many buildings were damaged by air and artillery strikes.

The junta said ethnic rebels and PDF fighters had attacked the town with “heavy artillery fire on residential areas, civil servants quarters and government offices” from early morning.

It said civilians were wounded and that its troops would “perform counter-terrorism action,” without giving details.

Myanmar has more than 20 ethnic rebel groups, many of which hold territory in the country’s border regions.

Following the coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in February 2021, dozens of PDF groups have also sprung up to fight the junta.

PDF fighters have conducted operations alongside troops from the KNU.

In June, Thailand scrambled fighter jets after a Myanmar warplane briefly breached its airspace during an operation against anti-coup fighters.

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