The Burmese government and Kachin rebels were engaged in pitched ground battles over key positions in the mountains around Laiza on Tuesday, while the army also launched airstrikes in the area, according to a rebel commander.
Further north in Kachin State, three children died in a displaced civilians’ camp on Tuesday after the underground bunker they were playing in collapsed, an aid worker said.
Government troops attacked two rebel-held hilltop posts, Kha Rha hill and Lim Bum hill, on Tuesday afternoon, said Min Htay, a major in the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, which fights alongside the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
“We’ve been fighting with the government troops today,” he told The Irrawaddy by telephone. “The government troops launched a ground attack on Kha Ra hill post, but we fired back.”
He said in the course of the fighting the Burmese army called in airstrikes to hit the two positions, which are located less than 10 kilometers northwest of Laiza, a town on the Burma-China border where the KIA have their headquarters.
“On Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 pm, two fighter jets dropped bombs at the Kha Ra hill post and Lim Bum hill post,” Maj Min Htay said, adding that fighting was continuing late afternoon on Tuesday.
In recent weeks, government troops have seized at least two KIA hilltop posts in the area, point 771 and Phun Pyan Bum hill.
Residents of Laiza said that on Monday night the Burmese army had again fired artillery strikes at central Laiza’s Phar Kyan Kyawt quarter, where earlier that day shelling had killed three civilians and injured four.
“There were two artillery strikes around 10:45 pm last night,” said a Laiza resident, who preferred not to be named. “We were so worried about our safety.”
Monday night’s strike did not injure anyone, as the quarter had been evacuated following the attacks earlier that day.
Two seriously injured victims of the first artillery attacks—a 10-year-old girl and an adult woman, who were both wounded in the lower part of their body— have been brought to China’s Yunnan Province for further treatment, the Laiza resident said.
Also on Tuesday, four young boys who were playing in a makeshift underground bunker were buried when a mud slide caused the bunker to collapse, said Mary Tawn, an aid worker with Wun Tawng Ningtwey (Light of the Kachin People).
Three of the boys, aged between 11 and 13 years, died in the tragic accident in Barka Htaunt camp for internally displaced villagers. “Only one out of four children playing there could make it alive. It all happened within about 30 minutes,” she said. “We lost sight of those children while they were playing during lunchtime.”
Mary Tawn said the makeshift bunkers were hazardous for little children but had to be dug as the fighting was getting closer to the camps. “As more air strikes and shelling are happening near the camps, we have to dig more bunkers,” she said.
Wun Tawng Ningtwey assists about 10,000 villagers in six camps in northern Kachin State by providing food, shelter and education for the children, Mary Tawn said, adding that the group had just opened a primary school in Barka Htaunt camp, which is located near Mai Ja Yang, several hundred kilometer north of Laiza,
An estimated 100,000 Kachin villagers have been displaced since the fighting in Kachin State began in June 2011, when a 17-year-old cease-fire between Kachin rebels and the government broke down.