The Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of Myanmar’s most powerful rebel groups, yesterday said that it had shot down a helicopter after returning fire following air strikes by the military, a group official said.
The UN estimates that tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes as a result of the fighting between the military and ethnic minority insurgents in remote northern and eastern frontier regions.
The conflict intensified after Burmese generals seized power on Feb. 1, ousting the elected government led by Burmese State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Photo: Kachinwaves / AFP
KIA information department head Naw Bu said that the helicopter was shot down at about 10:20am at a village near the town of Moemauk in Kachin province.
“The military council launched air strikes in that area since about 8 or 9 this morning ... using jet fighters and also fired shots using a helicopter, so we shot back at them,” he said by telephone, declining to say what weapons were used.
News portals MizzimaDaily and Kachinwaves also reported the downing of the helicopter next to photographs showing a plume of smoke coming from the ground.
A resident in the area, who declined to be named, said by telephone that four people had died in the hospital after artillery shells hit a monastery in the village.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports and a military spokesman did not answer a telephone call seeking comment.
On Sunday, Burmese security forces opened fire on some of the biggest protests in days, killing eight people, media reported.
The protests, after a spell of dwindling crowds and what appeared to be more restraint by the security forces, were coordinated with demonstrations in Burmese communities around the world to mark what organizers called the “global Myanmar spring revolution.”
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group says that security forces have killed at least 765 protesters since the coup. Reuters has been unable to confirm the toll.
The military has consistently justified the coup by accusing the civilian government of widespread fraud in elections in November last year, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, has been detained since the coup along with many other members of her National League for Democracy party.
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