A government military helicopter shelling Kachin Independence Army positions was shot down by the KIA Monday near the Chinese border in northern Myanmar, where fighting has intensified since the Feb. 1 army overthrow of the elected government, a spokesman the ethnic rebel group said.

The helicopter was with two Myanmar Air Force jets shelling KIA posts near in Kachin’s Momauk township, one of five townships in Myanmar’s northernmost state that have seen numerus clashes in recent months, KIA spokesman Col. Naw Bu told RFA.

“Two military jets and a helicopter gunship attacked our positions in Momauk township this morning. Our forces retaliated in defense and shot down the gunship,” he said.  “We don’t know the fate of the crew yet,” Naw Bu added.

“After the incident, the military shelled the village, injuring some villagers but we do not have the exact details yet,” he said.

A woman from Sihat village at the center of the fighting Monday said villagers saw aircraft flying overhead.

“At first we saw two aircraft over our skies. Later on, one disappeared and we assumed it must have been shot down because we saw some smoke billowing up,” she said.

“We could see it from here. It fell near the Shan Chinese School. People in the fields said there were three people in the aircraft,” said the villager, who declined to give her name for safety reasons.

The Irrawaddy online news outlet quoted a local resident as saying the chopper “crashed after being hit in its tail rotor”  and was spewing smoke after it crashed near Konglaw village.

The local Kachin Waves news outlet reported that two artillery shells fell on a monastery in Konglaw village after the military helicopter was shot down, killing a monk and two villagers, and injuring nine other people, including children.

The report said Monday’s three deaths brought the number killed in recent government military attacks on Momauk villages to eight.

“The situation has calmed down a little in most of these townships except in Momauk township, where the clashes have intensified during the past week.” Naw Bu said.

RFA made two phone calls to Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, the junta spokesman, but he did not answer.

The independent news outlet Myanmar Now quoted sources in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, as saying KIA had seized at least 10 junta army bases since fighting escalated with the Myanmar military in early March.

The fighting came as opponents of the three-month-old military that ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her elected government staged protests in Yangon, Mandalay, Bago, and Tanintharyi regions, as well as in Shan, Mon and Kayin states.

In Sagaing and Magway region and were met with gunfire by security forces.

In the Sagaing town of Wetlet, tens of thousands of people turned out in the streets Sunday and were fired upon by the army and police.

“Two of our people were killed during the protest in the afternoon and several were injured. One of the injured died later in the evening,” a Wetlet resident told RFA. The resident said eight people were injured.

In neighboring Magway Region, two people were killed and three others were injured in a shootout between the local People’s Defense Force and the army near Htanbin Kone village on Monday

“There was a clash for about three hours between the local residents and the junta forces near Htanbin Kone village this morning in which two people died and three were wounded. The locals were using Tumee handmade rifles against the soldiers. One of our villagers was taken prisoner by them,” said a local villager.

Bombs were set off in four places in Yangon, the country’s largest city and commercial capital, witnesses said.

East of Yangon, in the Bago town of Nattalin, a police officer was injured in a bomb blast at a police station Sunday, a protester said.

“Some members of our Civil Peoples Defense Force set off the bomb. We later heard a police woman had injured her hand. They have been threatening the lives of our people and our action is meant to deter them in their repression,” the protester said.

After the bombing, police arrested two youths, bringing to at least 10 the number arrested in Nattalin.

According to an RFA tally, more than 750 people have been killed by the military and police across the country.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Thailand-based rights group, said that as of Thursday, 766 people had been killed since the Feb. 1 coup, while 3,614 were arrested, charged or sentenced.

Speaking in London after a meeting of the Group of Seven foreign ministers on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced support for Southeast Asia diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Myanmar but reiterated the demands of Western countries that the junta reverse course.

“But it is vital, regardless of anything else, that the violence cease, that prisoners be released, and that Myanmar return to the path of democracy,” he said.

 

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