Myanmar air strike kills 80 during concert

Military has yet to confirm bombardment but rescue workers say civilians and local singers among the dead

FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2013, file photo, soldiers of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) stand on guard in Laiza, a border town of China and Myanmar, Kachin State, Myanmar. The Kachin Independence Army claims to have shot down a helicopter belonging to the government’s military Monday, May 3, 2021, in the course of heavy fighting over a strategic position. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win, File)
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Air strikes by Myanmar’s military killed more than 80 people, including singers and musicians, at an anniversary celebration of the Kachin ethnic minority’s main political organisation, according to members of the group and a rescue worker on Monday.

The air strike late on Sunday in the northern state of Kachin also killed civilians and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) officers, media reported.

Witnesses said the attack was carried out by three jets. The military has yet to confirm it took place.

The strike happened in the A Nang Pa region of Hpakant township, said Reuters, which could not immediately verify details of the reports. A junta representative could not immediately be reached for comment, the agency said.

Myanmar has been gripped by violence since the army overthrew an elected government early last year. Opposition movements, some of them armed, have since emerged across the country, which the military has countered with lethal force.

KIA spokesman Naw Bu said the attack targeted celebrations of the 62nd anniversary of the formation of the Kachin army's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).

"The air raid was intentional," he said by phone. "The KIA/KIO strongly condemns this. This is quite a wicked act which can be also considered war crimes." He said his organisation could not yet confirm the death toll.

Since the coup, open conflict has resumed between the Myanmar army and bitter rival the KIA, which has been fighting for greater autonomy for the Kachin people for six decades and has voiced support for the anti-junta resistance.

The shadow National Unity Government (NUG), an alliance of anti-military groups, said it was greatly saddened by the loss of life and urged the United Nations and the international community to intervene and stop the atrocities.

"The terrorist military has deliberately committed another mass killing with aerial bombardments by targeting a large public concert," an NUG statement said.

"The act of the terrorist military clearly violates international laws."

The UN has repeatedly condemned Myanmar's military, accusing it of crimes against humanity over the deaths of civilians. The junta says its operations are targeting "terrorists".

Updated: October 25, 2022, 4:36 AM
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