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Witnesses: Air strikes in Myanmar killed 13 people, including 7 children

BANGKOK –

Government helicopters have hit 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.

Civilian casualties often occur in government-military attacks against pro-democracy insurgents and their allies. However, the number of children killed in last Friday’s airstrike in the town of Tabayin in the Sagaing region appears to be the highest since the military took power last February, toppling her elected government. Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military takeover sparked mass nonviolent protests across the country. The army and police responded with force, leading to the spread of armed resistance in the cities and countryside. According to a UNICEF report this month, the fighting has been particularly fierce in Sagaing, where the army has carried out a number of attacks, including several cases of burning villages that have displaced more than half a million people. evacuate.

Friday’s attack occurred in the village of Let Yet Kone in Tabayin, also known as Depayin, about 110 kilometers (70 miles) northwest of Mandalay, the country’s second largest city.

Mar Mar said she was trying to get students to safe hiding in the ground floor classrooms when two of the four Mi-35 helicopters hovering north of the village began to attack, firing machine guns. and heavy weapons into the school, the campus of the village’s Buddhist monastery.

Mar Mar works at the school with 20 volunteers teaching 240 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. She has been hiding in the village with her three children since fleeing to safety to avoid government repression after participating in a civil disobedience movement against a military takeover last year. . She uses the pseudonym “Mar” to protect herself and her loved ones from the military.

She said she did not expect the incident as the plane had flown over the village before without any incident.

“Since the students did nothing wrong, I never thought they would be brutally shot with a machine gun,” Mar told The Associated Press by phone Monday.

By the time she and the students and teachers were able to take shelter in the classroom, a teacher and a 7-year-old student had been shot in the neck and head and Mar had to use several pieces of clothing to try to get out. bleeding.

“They continuously fired at the complex from the air for an hour,” Mar said. “They didn’t stop for even a minute. All we could do then was chant Buddhist mantras.”

When the air strikes stopped, about 80 soldiers entered the monastery grounds, opening fire on buildings.

The soldiers then ordered everyone in the compound to get out of the buildings. Mar Mar said she had seen about 30 students with injuries to their backs, thighs, face and other parts of their bodies. Some students have lost limbs.

“The kids told me their friends were dying,” she said. “I also heard a student shouting, ‘It hurts. I can’t take it anymore. Please kill me’.” This voice still rings in my ears,” Mar Mar said.

She said at least six students were killed in the school and a 13-year-old boy who worked at a fishing facility in a nearby village was also shot dead. At least six adults were also killed in air strikes in other parts of the village, she said. The bodies of the dead children were taken away by the army.

More than 20 people, including nine injured children and three teachers, were also taken away by the soldiers, she said. Two of those arrested were accused of being members of the anti-government People’s Self-Defense Force, the armed wing of the resistance.

Security forces also burned down a house in the village, causing people to flee.

A volunteer in Tabayin assisting evacuees, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of government retaliation, said the bodies of the dead children had been cremated by soldiers in the nearby town of Ye U.

“I am telling the international community about this now because I want to correct our children,” Mar said. “Instead of humanitarian aid, what we really need is real democracy and human rights.”

Myanmar Now, an online news service and other independent Myanmar media also reported on the attack and the death of the students.

The day after the attack, the state-run Myanmar Alinn newspaper reported that security forces had checked the village after receiving information that members of the People’s Self-Defense Force were hiding there.

The report said members of the People’s Self-Defense Forces and their allies from the Kachin Independence Army, an ethnic rebel group, were hiding inside houses and monasteries and began shooting. security forces, killing and injuring villagers. It said the injured had been taken to hospital, but did not mention the situation of the students.

At least 2,298 civilians have been killed by security forces since the army took power last year, according to the Thailand-based Association for the Support of Political Prisoners, which monitors human rights in Myanmar.

The United Nations Commission on the Rights of the Child said in June it had recorded 260 attacks on schools and educational staff since the coup.

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