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Myanmar Junta Troops Clash With 'Self Defense' Forces

FILE - This handout from Pauk Township News taken and released June 16, 2021, shows the remains of houses after they were burnt by Myanmar soldiers in Kin Ma village, Pauk Township, in Myanmar's Magway region.

Myanmar troops killed several members of a local "defense force" in a day of clashes, the junta said Friday, with local residents and media reporting at least 10 dead.

The country has been in turmoil since a February coup and a military crackdown on dissent that has killed more than 1,000 people, according to a local monitoring group.

In some areas, locals -- often using hunting rifles or homemade weapons -- have formed "defense forces" to fight back.

Junta troops were attacked with "small arms and homemade guns" as they entered Myin Thar village in the western Magway region on Thursday, army spokesman Zaw Min Tun told state-backed People Media.

The soldiers, who were searching for members of a local "Peoples' Defense Force" had killed a number of fighters, he said, without giving an exact figure, adding they had seized 23 guns.

"More than 10 people from my village were shot and killed," one Myin Thar resident said on condition of anonymity.

Soldiers set fire to several houses after the clash, they said.

A resident of neighboring Thar Lin village said locals fled at the sounds of the fighting and were now sheltering in a local monastery or in the jungle.

Local media reported between 10 and 15 locals had been killed.

Clashes involving civilian militias and the military have largely been restricted to rural areas but in June at least six people died in a gun battle in the country's second city of Mandalay.

On Tuesday around a dozen military-owned communications towers were destroyed, the same day a shadow government working to reverse the coup called for a "people's defensive war against the junta."

The "National Unity Government" which claims to be the country's legitimate government, is made up of dissident lawmakers in hiding or exile, many of them from ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party.

The junta has defended its power grab by alleging massive fraud during elections in late 2020 which Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won by a landslide.