15 Myanmar Soldiers, Police and Civilians Dead in Coordinated Attacks
By Htet Naing Zaw & Zarni Mann 15 August 2019
MANDALAY—At least 15 have died and three have been injured in coordinated rebel attacks across in Mandalay Region and neighboring northern Shan State on Thursday, a day that began with the first attack on the Myanmar military’s Defense Service Technological Academy (DSTA) in decades.
In the deadliest, at least seven soldiers and three police were killed in an attack on a police security outpost on the Goke Twin Bridge in Naung Cho Township, according to volunteer rescue workers there.
“We’ve found the bodies of seven soldiers and three police, and three others had serious injuries. Soldiers are securing the area and the road is now blocked off,” said U Than Zaw, a Naung Cho volunteer helping to transfer the injured to hospitals.
Volunteers said the military is in custody of the dead bodies of the soldiers and the police, the latter of whom they are taking to Kyaukme, where the police officers lived.
“Another injured police officer and a truck driver were also sent to Kyaukme Hospital for treatment,” U Than Zaw said. “The situation is now stable, but the Goke Twin Bridge was destroyed and we can’t pass through yet.”
Military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun confirmed some details of the attacks to The Irrawaddy but refused to give the numbers of soldiers killed or injured.
“When the attacks began and our troops arrived there as back-up, the police were already gone. Our soldiers died there. The police security outpost and the bridge were destroyed, but now the area is under our control,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—an ethnic Palaung armed group active in northern Shan State—put the number of soldiers killed there at eight.
The Gok Twin Bridge, which connected Hsipaw and Naung Cho, was destroyed by a land mine, leaving all vehicular travel there closed.
“The bridge was destroyed and communications are blocked because of the armed conflicts here. We were told authorities are rushing to repair the bridge but I think it will take a few weeks,” said Ko Pyae Kyaw, a driver stranded with other commuters in Hsipaw.
“We are still waiting for the green light from the military. We don’t know if we’ll be able to cross,” said U Khin Maung Yin, a truck driver stranded in Naung Cho on his way to Muse.
All passenger transit along the Mandalay-Lashio-Musio Road has been canceled for security reasons until the situation is stable. There were approximately 300 passengers vehicles traveling along the Mandalay-Muse section of the road when fighting broke out.
“We’ve canceled all trips in the area until the situation is stable and the Goke Twin Bridge is passable,” said U Soe Aung, president of the Pyin Oo Lwin Transportation Association.
The TNLA and their allies attacked in five separate locations early Thursday morning, including the military’s Defense Service Technological Academy in Pyin Oo Lwin, a toll gate in Pyin Oo Lwin Township, a toll gate in Naung Cho Township, at the Goke Twin Bridge and at a Goke Twin Police security outpost.
Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said a civilian working for the training academy was killed and one soldier was injured there while a number of vehicles were destroyed, and that two soldiers and a civilian were killed in the two separate toll gate attacks.
A statement from the military released after the DTSA attacks said that at least six type 63 107-milimeter artillery shells were found on a hill in Pyin Oo Lwin after the attacks.
The statement also said the attacks could be revenge for the military’s seizure of 16 billion kyats worth of drugs in Kutkai Township, in northern Shan State, on July 25, and 5 billion kyats worth of drugs and arms seized in Rathaetaung Township, in Rakhine State, on Aug. 8.
TNLA spokesperson Mong Aike Kyaw claimed responsibility for the attacks on behalf of the TNLA and their allies the Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.
“We have opened a necessary new counteroffensive against the military in Pyin Oo Lwin in order to reduce military pressure in our regions,” Mong Aike Kyaw said.
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