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

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

The national flag of Myanmar. (Photo: iStock/ugurhan)

BANGKOK: 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 (Oct 24).

"Around 8.40 pm on Sunday, two Myanmar military jets attacked" a ceremony the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) was holding, 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.

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

The United Nation's 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".

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

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 strife-torn Myanmar ahead of November's Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders' summit.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (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 air strike and firing on a Myanmar village in the 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 in the area

A number of Myanmar's myriad ethnic rebel groups have come out in support of the anti-coup movement, offering shelter and even training to activists.

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

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.

Source: AFP/yb

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