Bodies found after military air raid in Myanmar’s Magway: Report

Two of the nine victims found were members of an anti-coup self-defence force while the rest were civilians including children.

Myanmar's military government has increasingly deployed helicopters as anti-coup militias sprung up across the country [File: Ye Aung Thu/AFP]

Bodies of at least nine people have been found in Myanmar’s central region following a suspected air raid by military forces, according to a news report, adding that most of the victims were civilians, including two children.

Myanmar Now news website reported on Tuesday that the bodies were discovered by members of a search and rescue team that reached the outskirts of Hnan Khar village in Magway region’s Gangaw township following the attack.

Only two of the victims were members of an anti-coup self-defence force, while the rest were villagers, the report added.

News of the discovery comes as residents in the area and a spokesman of the anti-coup militias told the AFP news agency that military troops deployed at least one helicopter to carry out an air raid as the military government struggles to break resistance to the coup.

Myanmar Now, however, said that as many as three helicopters were responsible for the deadly air raid.

Another local told AFP the military used five helicopters in the attack and that troops had fired on the village of about 6,000 people from the air.

Anti-coup militias have sprung up across Myanmar to fight back after the February coup; the military government has countered with a crackdown on dissent that a local monitoring group says has killed more than 1,300 people.

These “people’s defence forces” (PDFs) have surprised the army with their effectiveness, analysts told AFP, dragging General Min Aung Hlaing’s forces into a bloody deadlock.

‘Credible and sickening’

On Friday, military troops first launched a raid on a PDF meeting in Magway’s neighbouring central region of Sagaing using helicopters and jet fighters, residents told AFP.

Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun confirmed the military had used helicopters in a raid, without saying how they were used.

He said he had no casualty figures.

The military typically calls on helicopters and airborne assaults when ground troops have struggled, analysts have said.

In May, the Kachin Independence Army, an ethnic rebel group in the country’s far north, said it downed a military helicopter gunship during fierce clashes near the town of Momauk.

Earlier this month, the United States and United Nations condemned the military over what Washington described as “credible and sickening” reports of the killing of 11 villagers, including children.

The statements came as local media and residents said that soldiers seized 11 people from Dontaw village in Sagaing region following mine and bomb attacks on a military convoy a day earlier.

The military has dismissed the claims as false.

Separately, the military is also engaged in an ongoing armed conflict with the Karen National Union (KNU), a rebel group that opposes the coup in Karen state.

The fighting has forced more than 3,900 Myanmar refugees across the border with Thailand, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

UNHCR had called on Thailand on Monday to allow them “urgent access” to the refugees.

Thousands of refugees are also believed to be stuck on the Myanmar side of the border, and the KNU warned in a statement on Tuesday that the military could also target those civilians with air attacks.

The KNU is urging the UN Security Council to convene an emergency meeting and identify a “no-fly zone” to protect the civilians.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies