BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s military-controlled government is accusing pro-democracy fighters of killing 15 civilians in a nighttime mortar attack in a restive central area of the country, charges denied by the guerrilla group.
A report Thursday in the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper said so-called People’s Defense Forces attacked the village of Ngwe Twin in the southern part of the Sagaing region at 4 am Wednesday with handmade mortars, killing 15 people and injuring seven others, including three monks.
Loosely organized armed PDF groups have sprung up around the country since the military seized power from democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February 2021. The groups support the pro-democracy National Unity Government, a shadow civilian administration opposed to military rule, though they operate autonomously from it.
The NUG did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment on the attack.
Since the military’s seizure of power, widespread peaceful opposition to the takeover has shifted to armed resistance in many parts of the country and the PDF groups have allied themselves with several armed ethnic minority groups that have been fighting for greater autonomy in Myanmar for decades.
In response, the army has launched brutal counter-insurgency operations in the countryside, including burning villages and driving hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Sagaing, Myanmar’s historic heartland, is a stronghold of armed resistance to the ruling military but the village of Ngwe Twin is one of the few seen as sympathetic to the government, where residents reportedly were assisting in the army’s counter-insurgency operations.
The military government’s tight restrictions on travel make it virtually impossible to verify details of such incidents firsthand, but a member of a regional PDF contacted by The Associated Press confirmed the attack, saying the village was targeted because a pro-military militia operating from it had been aiding the army and also harassing pro-democracy villagers.
The fighter, speaking on condition of anonymity over fear of reprisals from the military, said all 15 people killed were members of the pro-military militia.
He added that resistance forces had evacuated children and elderly people from the village during the fighting and that he had no immediate reports of any civilian casualties.
Another PDF group involved in the attack, known as the People’s Servant Revolution-Wetlet, said on its Facebook page that 19 members of the military and its affiliated militia were killed and 20 others were injured.
A family member who lost his 14-year-old brother in the attack, however, told AP that 11 villagers who had been sheltering in the compound of a Buddhist monastery had been killed.
The man, who asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals from both the military and the PDF militias, lives in another village but said he had been told the other four people killed were members of the pro-military militia and their family members.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 3,750 civilians have been killed by the security forces and nearly 24,000 attested since the army seized power. The group keeps detailed tallies of arrests and casualties linked to the nation’s political conflicts.
By DAVID RISING Associated Press