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Ethnic group says air strike in Myanmar kills 80 at celebration


BANGKOK – Air strikes by Myanmar’s military killed 80 people, including singers and musicians, attending celebrations for the founding of the main political organization of the Kachin ethnic minority, members of the group and an employee. lifeguard said Monday.

The reported attack came three days before the Southeast Asian foreign ministers held a special meeting in Indonesia to discuss rising violence in Myanmar.

The death toll at Sunday night’s celebrations, organized by the Kachin Independence Organization in Kachin state, northern Kachin, appears to be the most in an air strike since the army seized power in February. 2021 from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Initial reports put the death toll at around 60, but later figures raised the number to around 80.

The details of the incident could not be independently confirmed, although media sympathetic to Kachin has posted videos showing what is believed to be the aftermath of the attack, with wooden structures broken and flattened.

The military government’s information office confirmed in a statement late Monday that there had been an attack on what was described as the headquarters of the 9th Brigade of the Kachin Independence Army, calling it “” necessary operations” in response to the “terrorist” acts carried out by Kachin. Coporation, group.

It called reports of high death toll “rumors”, and denied the military had bombed a concert and that singers and spectators were among those killed.

The United Nations office in Myanmar said in a statement it was “deeply concerned and saddened” by the reports of the air strikes.

“The excessive and disproportionate use of force by security forces against unarmed civilians is unacceptable and those responsible must be held accountable,” it said.

Envoys representing Western embassies in Myanmar, including the United States, issued a joint statement saying the attack highlighted the military regime’s “disdain for its duty to protect civilians and respect it.” principles and rules of international humanitarian law”.

Myanmar has been infuriated for decades by ethnic minority uprisings demanding self-rule, but anti-government resistance has grown markedly across the country with the formation of an armed movement. pro-democracy site protesting last year’s military takeover.

The Kachin are one of the more powerful ethnic rebel groups and are capable of producing some of their own weapons. They also have a loose alliance with armed militias of pro-democracy forces formed in 2021 in central Myanmar to resist military rule.

On Sunday, the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Kachin Independence Organization, which included a concert, was held at a base also used for military training by the Kachin Independence Army, the dance wing. KIO’s page. It is located near the village of Aung Bar Lay in the town of Hpakant, a remote mountainous area 950 kilometers (600 mi) north of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon.

Hpakant is the center of the world’s largest and most lucrative jade mining industry, from which both the government and the rebels derive revenue.

Up to 80 people were killed and about 100 injured in Sunday’s attack on the first day of KIO’s three-day anniversary, a spokesman for the Kachin Artists Association told The Associated Press by phone. He said he first heard of 60 deaths, but was later told by sources close to Kachin Independence Army officials that about 80 had died.

He said military aircraft dropped four bombs on the celebration around 8 p.m., according to members of his team who were there. Between 300 and 500 people were in attendance, and a Kachin singer and keyboard player was among those killed, the spokesman said, requesting anonymity for fear of retribution by the authorities, the spokesman said.

Those killed also included Kachin officers and soldiers, musicians, jade mining business owners and other civilians, he said. They also include at least 10 military VIPs and businessman Kachin sitting in front of the stage, and the chef working behind the scenes, he added.

Kachin News Group, a media outlet sympathetic to KIO, reported that an initial search had found 58 bodies and that government security forces had prevented the injured from being taken to hospitals for treatment. hospitals in nearby towns. Later reports said more than 20 bodies had been recovered, bringing the death toll to around 80.

Colonel Naw Bu, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army, said by phone that KIA soldiers, musicians, businessmen and villagers were among those killed, but he could not confirm the number. casualties due to communication problems. He said that the deaths were a loss for all the people of Kachin, and that its group would fly the Kachin flag at a height of half a foot.

An emergency services rescue worker who was in Hpakant and also asked to remain anonymous said he saw three military planes carrying out the bombing run over the celebration area, just a short distance away. several kilometers (miles). He said he was banned from the area by KIO but heard that more than 60 people were killed, including a KIA brigade commander.

The Association to Support Political Prisoners, an NGO that tracks homicides and arrests, said on Friday that 2,377 civilians have died in crackdowns by security forces since the military took power. However, its numbers do not always include those killed in military operations in the countryside.

“We are concerned this attack is part of a pattern of illegal military aerial attacks that have killed and wounded civilians in areas controlled by armed groups,” said Hana. Young, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director, said in a statement.

“The military has shown a ruthless disregard for civilian life in its escalating campaign against its adversary. It is hard to believe that the military was unaware of a significant civilian presence at the site of this attack. The military must immediately provide medical access and humanitarian assistance to those affected by these airstrikes and other civilians in need,” Young said.

Cambodia, the current president of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said Sunday that the group’s foreign ministers will hold a special meeting in Indonesia this week to review the peace process for Myanmar. Myanmar’s generals have all but the group’s earlier efforts.

Amnesty International said: “As officials and leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations prepare to hold high-level meetings in the coming weeks, this attack underscores the need to reformed approach to the crisis in Myanmar. and form a stronger course of action for military leaders to put an end to this escalating repression.”

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