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Myanmar Junta Confirms Deadly Airstrike on Rebel Forces

FILE - Military officers march during a parade to commemorate Myanmar's 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 27, 2023.
FILE - Military officers march during a parade to commemorate Myanmar's 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 27, 2023.

Myanmar’s ruling junta has confirmed it carried out deadly airstrikes on a village where opposition forces were holding a ceremony.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said Wednesday the attack in the Sagaing area in northwest Myanmar on Tuesday was conducted during a ceremony by the People’s Defense Force, the military arm of the National Unity Government, a shadow government made up of members of the civilian government ousted by the military on February 1, 2021.

Various news outlets say at least 50 people were killed in the airstrike. Zaw Min Tun said some of those killed were members of the PDF, while acknowledging that some civilians may have been killed as well.

Sources connected to the NUG and PDF say as many as 100 people may have been killed in Tuesday’s attack.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack in a statement released by his spokesperson, and repeated his call “for the military to end the campaign of violence against the Myanmar population throughout the country.”

Tuesday’s attack mirrors a similar attack last October in northern Kachin state when at least 50 people were killed during a concert put on by the ethnic Kachin Independence Army.

U.S. State Department spokesman Vedant Patel issued a statement saying Tuesday’s attack and a reported airstrike on April 10 that killed at least nine people in western Chin state “further underscore the regime’s disregard for human life and its responsibility for the dire political and humanitarian crisis in Burma” in the wake of the coup, using an alternate name for Myanmar.

“The United States calls on the Burma regime to cease the horrific violence, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and to respect the genuine and inclusive democratic aspirations of the people of Burma,” Patel said.

The military says its overthrow of the democratically elected government was due to widespread election fraud in the November 2020 general elections, won by a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

The coup immediately triggered anti-junta demonstrations across Myanmar that have led to the deaths of more than 3,000 civilians and more than 18,000 arrests at the hands of the military, according to an independent monitoring group. The unrest has also evolved into a deadly rural conflict between the military and several ethnic rebel groups who have been fighting for decades for greater autonomy.

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