Myanmar military airstrikes kill more than 60, Kachin rebels say

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Dozens of people have reportedly been killed in military airstrikes at a celebratory event in Myanmar’s mountainous Kachin state on Sunday, drawing international condemnation of the junta that seized power in the country more than a year and a half ago.

Victims had been attending an event organized by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to mark the 62nd anniversary of the armed ethnic rebel group’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

Col. Naw Bu, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), said 62 people had been killed in the airstrikes and 60 people remain injured. Many of the injured have burns and shrapnel wounds.

KIO General Secretary La Nan said the event the victims were attending, which included musical performances, was one of the group’s most significant annual festivities, with “hundreds, if not thousands” in attendance including artists, business owners, and elders. Many had traveled from across the state to attend, he said.

“We understand the intention of (the airstrikes) was largely to inflict chaos and massive pain to the public, in a large volume and with as much damage as they could inflict,” La Nan said.

The military junta, which overthrew the government in a bloody coup last February, claimed on Monday that reports of civilian deaths from the airstrikes were “fake news.”

It claimed the airstrikes had targeted the KIA’s military base, in response to the group’s earlier raids and attacks on passenger vessels along the Irrawaddy River. It also claimed it had followed international conventions “so as to ensure peace and stability of the region.”

La Nan refuted the junta’s claim, saying the celebration had been held in the A Nang Pa region – a small area where travelers often stop by a market. It’s “nowhere close to military installations,” he said.

Though KIO personnel were in attendance, “they were not there as military personnel but as entertainers,” helping welcome guests and performing, he added.

Agencies

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