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Fighting Resumes in Myanmar's Kokang Region


FILE - A rebel soldier of Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army places a machine gun bullet belt around the neck of another soldier at a military base in Kokang region, March 10, 2015.

Myanmar has expressed "deep sorrow" for a bombing that killed five inside of China last week, but denied its military was responsible for the attack.

In a statement published Monday in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper, the government in Naypyidaw expressed condolences for the attack, which killed five Chinese nationals and injured eight others. However, the statement did not take responsibility for the bombing, instead calling for an investigation into possible Kokang involvement.

Tun Myat Lin, a spokesman for the rebel group the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), accused the Myanmar government of trying to turn attention away from a police crackdown on student protesters. In an interview with VOA Monday, he said his group does not have the capacity to launch such an attack inside China.

China on Monday repeated its stance that Myanmar's Air Force was clearly responsible for last Friday's bombing.

A source on the Chinese side of the border, who did not want to be identified, told VOA's Mandarin service that China has assigned several fighters and combat vehicles to patrol the border area.

Renewed battles

Meanwhile, clashes between the Myanmar military and Kokang rebels resumed Monday, after two days of silence following the bombing.

The rebel spokesman said government troops launched a major offensive on Monday to try to take over a strategic hill near the Chinese border.

"[It occurred] southeast of Laukkai, and heavy shells were falling frequently in the northeast as well. [But] no airstrikes were seen today," he said.

Tun Myat Lin added that no causalities were reported in the latest fighting.

The Kokang offensive began February 9 when an alliance of armed groups, including the MNDAA, attacked multiple Myanmar military positions in an effort to regain land lost in a 2009 conflict.

Myanmar’s military has declared martial law and a state of emergency in Kokang, causing thousands to flee into China’s southern Yunnan province.

The Myanmar government has accused local Chinese officials and other ethnic groups of assisting the rebels and has called for China's help in preventing attacks launched across the border.

China has strongly denied the allegation, saying it respects Myanmar's sovereignty.

Silver Yang contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese and Mandarin services.