In Northern Myanmar, Kachin rebels claim attacks on army outposts as offensive gathers pace

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A rebel group in Myanmar’s northern state of Kachin said its troops on Thursday attacked more than 10 army outposts along the main road to the state capital of Myitkyina, increasing the pressure on the military government from pro-democracy resistance forces and ethnic minority armed organizations.
Fierce fighting has been taking place in the area, residents told a human rights group and local media.
A spokesperson for the Kachin Independence Army said the group launched assaults against outposts controlled by the army and army-affiliated militia in several townships and near Laiza, a town on the Chinese border where the KIA has its headquarters. Laiza is about 325 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city.
The spokesperson, Col. Naw Bu, said the military retaliated with artillery attacks and aerial bombing. Three civilians, including a child living in Laiza town, were killed, he said.
The army is facing its biggest challenge since seizing power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
A surprise offensive launched last October by an alliance of armed ethnic organizations captured a large swathe of territory in northeastern Myanmar along the Chinese border. The army has also lost territory in the western state of Rakhine.
Like other minorities in Myanmar, the Kachin people have struggled for decades for greater autonomy from Myanmar’s central government. The troops of the Kachin Independence Army are battle-hardened, making them one of the better-armed rebel groups, capable even of manufacturing some of their own weapons.
The KIA is also on good terms with the armed militias of the pro-democracy movement, known as the People’s Defense Force, that were formed to fight military rule after the 2021 army takeover. The PDF has fought side by side with the the KIA not only in Kachin, but also in nearby Sagaing region.
Kachin local media outlets reported fighting Thursday by the combined troops of the KIA and the PDF against the military in Laiza, Bhamo, Waingmaw, Momauk and Myitkyina townships. On-and-off fighting has been common in the area.
KIA spokesperson Naw Bu told that the group’s troops attacked more than 10 army outposts and seized five of them.
He did not specify the reason for the attacks but denied it was related to the activities of other groups against the army in other parts of the country. He also appeared to claim that it was not a coordinated large-scale offensive.
“It is not known why the troops in the front line started fighting against each other. But after the fighting started in one place, it is certain that it also broke out in many other places,” Naw Bu said. “There is no connection with other ethnic armed groups. But we are also preparing for security in our place.”
A Laiza resident who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared arrest by the authorities said the sounds of heavy artillery were heard almost everywhere around the town, though not near the side bordering on China. Laiza, controlled by the KIA, is 72 kilometers (45 miles) from Myitkyina, which is held by the military government.
There was no immediate comment from the military government about the fighting in Kachin. It was impossible for The Associated Press to independently verify details of the fighting in the remote, war-torn area.
A spokesperson for Kachin Human Rights Watch,who asked to be identified only by his first name Jacob for fear of being arrested by the military, said the KIA’s troops attacked the army outposts along the road connecting Waingmaw and Laiza at dawn. He said people living in displaced person camps near there were fleeing to safety because they had been bombed on previous occasions. The local group is not affiliated with the New York-based Human Rights Watch group.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a situation report distributed Monday that there are 2.7 million displaced people in Myanmar, 2.4 million of them displaced since conflict broke out after the 2021 military takeover.

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