Government helicopters have attacked a school and village in north-central Myanmar, killing at least 13 people including seven children, a school administrator and an aid worker said on Monday.
Friday’s attack occurred in Let Yet Kone village in Tabayin, also known as Depayin, about 110 kilometres (70 miles) northwest of Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city.
A damaged rooftop and broken wooden ceiling let sunlight into a middle school in Let Yet Kone village in Tabayin township | Photo: AP
School administrator Mar Mar said she was trying to get students to safe hiding places in ground-floor classrooms when two of four Mi-35 helicopters hovering north of the village began attacking, firing machine guns and heavier weapons at the school, which is in the compound of the village’s Buddhist monastery.
Civilian casualties often occur in attacks by the military government on pro-democracy insurgents and their allies. However, the number of children killed in the air attack last Friday in Tabayin township in the Sagaing region appeared to be the highest since the army seized power in February last year, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The army’s takeover triggered mass nonviolent protests nationwide. The military and police responded with deadly force, resulting in the spread of armed resistance in the cities and countryside. Fighting has been especially fierce in Sagaing, where the military has launched several offensives, in some cases burning villages, which displaced more than half a million people, according to a report issued by UNICEF this month.
When the air attack stopped, about 80 soldiers entered the monastery compound, firing their guns at the buildings.
The soldiers then ordered everyone in the compound to come out of the buildings. Mar Mar said she saw about 30 students with wounds on their backs, thighs, faces and other parts of their bodies. Some students had lost limbs.
“The children told me that their friends were dying. I also heard a student yelling,. It hurts so much. I can’t take it anymore. Kill me, please.' This voice still echoes in my ears,” Mar Mar said.
She said at least six students were killed in the school and a 13-year-old boy working at a fishery in a nearby village was also fatally shot. At least six adults were also killed in the air attack in other parts of the village, she said. The bodies of the dead children were taken away by the soldiers.
More than 20 people, including nine wounded children and three teachers, were also taken by the soldiers, she said. Two of those captured were accused of being members of the anti-government People's Defense Force, the armed wing of the resistance to the military.
Security forces also burned down a house in the village, causing residents to flee.
According to the reports by Myanmar army, members of the People's Defense Force and their allies from the Kachin Independence Army, an ethnic rebel group, were hiding inside houses and the monastery and started shooting at the security forces, causing deaths and injuries among village residents. It said the injured were taken to hospitals but did not mention the situation of the students.
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