Burmese army fights anti-coup rebels in northwest town

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A soldier uses a cell phone as he sits inside a military vehicle outside the Central Bank of Myanmar during a demonstration against the military coup, in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 15, 2021. REUTERS / Stringer / File Photo

(Reuters) – The Burmese army fought local militia fighters in the northwestern town of Mindat on Saturday in an attempt to quell a rebellion that erupted to oppose the junta that took over power in this Southeast Asian country in February.

The fighting in Mindat, Chin state, underlines the growing chaos in Myanmar as the junta struggles to impose its authority in the face of daily protests, strikes and sabotage attacks following the toppling of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The junta imposed martial law on Mindat on Thursday, then stepped up its attacks on what it called “armed terrorists”. A spokesperson did not respond to calls seeking comment on Saturday’s fighting.

Residents who took cover in the town said fighting raged on Saturday.

“There are soldiers everywhere,” said one man. A video shot by a resident of the hilly city and shared on social media showed a gunship firing a rocket. Reuters was unable to immediately verify the video.

The Irrawaddy news service said some houses were destroyed as the military resumed artillery shelling on Saturday.

“We live in a nightmare. Mindat is literally a war zone,” a 32-year-old resident who gave Mang after his name told Reuters on Friday.

“They’re using heavy artillery, mortar shells against us. We can’t fight that, we’re running out most of our ammunition and we’re risking everything … I think there’s a chance we are. slaughtered. We are doing our best to defend ourselves. But we may not last longer. “

Myanmar already has about 20 ethnic armed groups, which have been at war for decades against an army dominated by the Bamar majority. The Chinland Defense Force was created in response to the coup.

Reuters could not reach the group for comment on Saturday.

Myanmar’s junta-controlled News Agency said Wednesday and Thursday’s fighting in Mindat involved 100 people who attacked a police station and around 50 against the state-run Economic Bank of Myanmar.

A local lawmaker said fighting erupted after the military refused to release seven local youths detained by authorities.

The number of casualties was not clear.

At least 788 people have been killed by junta security forces during the crackdown on protests against his regime, according to an advocacy group.

The army, which disputes this figure, imposes strict restrictions on the media, information and the Internet. Reuters cannot independently verify the arrests and the number of victims.

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