Myanmar military’s attack on two townships in northern Rakhine state resulted in the death of least three civilians and as many as 30 people wounded. The townships are near where the insurgent Arakan Army (AA) had carried out an ambush on government troops, according to residents.
Residents of Mrauk-U township and nearby Kyauktaw township told RFA’s Myanmar Service that the attack, which took place early on Friday morning, involved light arms fire and the firing of mortars on several villages, a hospital, and a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Three residents of Tharsi village in Kyauktaw were killed in the attack, while around 30 people—including at least four children—were injured in total, they said.
One villager, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisal by the military, told RFA that in addition to the three killed, five people were wounded in Tharsi, and residents were not able to bring them to a medical center for treatment until Friday evening, as local roads were closed. More than a dozen homes were torched in both Tharsi and nearby Tinnma village, they said.
“Military troops entered the village around 11:00 a.m. and fired their weapons,” the villager said.
“A girl and two men were killed on the spot. They were hiding in the paddy granary and [the troops]shot them on purpose. They said it was in response to an AA attack near a mine along the road east of the village,” he added.
An elderly resident of Kyauktaw’sThayatTabinTheintan village, who also declined to be named, told RFA that a convoy of eight military vehicles fired its weapons into the village as it traveled along the highway connecting Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U townships.
“The eight military vehicles fired randomly into the village, leaving three injured,” they said. “One of [those injured], a girl, was critically wounded after being shot in the head.”
The three injured villagers were transported to a hospital in the Rakhine state capital Sittwe by a local humanitarian group, the elderly resident said.
Khine Thukha, a spokesperson for the AA, confirmed that on Thursday evening, soldiers from his ethnic army had ambushed a military convoy of 17 vehicles near the mine as they traveled from neighboring Minbya township to Mrauk-U.
Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun of the Myanmar military’s Information Committee said he was unaware of Friday’s attack, but suggested that area villages harbor insurgent soldiers.
“AA soldiers are taking shelter in these villages—they use them as a shield to attack military troops, so our troops were likely firing back at them,” he said.
Reports of Friday’s attack came after ethnic Rakhines told RFA earlier this week that at least two civilians accused of being members of the AA died in military custody in recent weeks.
At least 15 ethnic Rakhine civilians died in military custody last year, they said.
The Rakhine Ethnic Congress, a regional relief organization, said in January that the IDP population in the state had reached more than 100,000, up from the November tally of 92,500 villagers who had fled their homes due to fighting between Myanmar forces and the rebel Arakan Army. (Source: RFA)