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Airstrikes kill 6, including children, in Myanmar’s Kachin state

junta airstrike (Human Rights Watch/Released)
February 20, 2024

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

An onslaught of airstrikes in northern Myanmar killed six civilians and injured 13 more, rescue workers told Radio Free Asia on Monday. 

Junta troops retaliated after joint resistance forces attacked a regime base in Kachin state on Friday. 

After the Kachin Independence Army and Arakan Army, two allied ethnic armed organizations, fired on Mansi township’s “strategic hill,” the junta base turned its guns on nearby Si Hkam Gyi village.

Mansi township, which borders China, has been a site of previous conflict in late January. The Kachin Independence Army claimed the capture of 30 junta troops on Jan. 22 and 57 more soldiers escaped attacks by crossing the Chinese border. 

Regime soldiers bombarded the village by air in a two-day attack on Saturday and Sunday, when roughly 1,000 residents fled the area, locals said. 

On Saturday alone, troops dropped 20 bombs on four villages, they added.

A rescue worker with Myitta Shin Charity Group, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, said civilians and victims are being moved to safety.

“Hundreds of local people are trapped in the villages, including Si Hkam Gyi village. We plan to evacuate these people first and we are waiting to pick up the evacuees coming out of the villages today,” he told RFA on Monday. 

“The bodies haven’t been picked up yet because they died in the bomb shelters. We haven’t been able to get inside.”

The blasts killed two girls aged two and six. The airstrikes also killed four men in their 40s. The injured, mostly women, were sent to nearby Bhamo Hospital. 

Many of the displaced were sent to Man Thar village monastery and are being provided with medicine and food, he added.

A resident of nearby Si Kaw village who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons told RFA he was forced to flee in the middle of Saturday night, during the blasts.

“We left the village at 2 a.m. There was no difficulty on the way and I came with my own motorbike. I am staying in the hall next to Man Thar Monastery,” he said.

“The communities in Man Thar village provided food as soon as we arrived and the Myitta Shin Charity Group’s rescue team is picking up all the people who want to take refuge and helping them.”

Kachin Independence Army spokesperson Col. Naw Bu said on Sunday that people needed to live in a safe place and protect themselves from the junta airstrikes.

“There is fighting on the side of Si Hkam Gyi village. The military junta fires airstrikes all day long. The fighting continues there, like it did before,” he said.

“They mainly do not attack on the ground and depend on heavy artillery and airstrikes, so people must flee for their safety as much as possible.”

The junta’s Northern Region Military Command Infantry Battalions 121, 276, 123 and 15 are stationed just 48 kilometers (30 miles) away from Strategic Hill. Mansi township is one of the main supply routes to junta troops in nearby Bhamo city, which is why their attacks have been so fierce, said Col. Naw Bu.

RFA contacted Kachin state’s junta spokesperson Moe Min Thein on Sunday for comment on the accusations of indiscriminate firing and civilian deaths, but he did not answer at the time of publication. 

According to data compiled by RFA, junta airstrikes and artillery have killed 1,429 civilians and injured 2,641 more from the day of the coup on Feb. 1, 2021 to Jan. 31, 2024.

Over 2.6 million people had been displaced due to war by the end of 2023, according to a report from the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs.