SITTWE, Rakhine State—The Arakan Army (AA) on Tuesday released 25 civilians it abducted from a ferry on Oct. 26.
The AA handed the civilians over to the administrator of Ngwe Taung Village, AA information officer Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy.
“Around 6 a.m. this morning, we handed over 25 civilians to the village administrator at the monastery in Ngwe Taung Village. We gave them 15,000 kyats [US$9.85] for travel expenses and we also gave back their cell phones. We don’t have any civilians left in our hands now,” Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy.
Deputy administrator of Buthidaung Township U Hla Shwe told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday morning that he was on his way to bring the civilians back.
The AA seized the Shwe Nadi ferry between Sittwe and Buthidaung Township on the morning of Oct. 26 near Rathedaung Township and abducted security personnel and civilians.
According to Khaing Thukha, as the AA took them into custody, but the Myanmar military dropped bombs from three helicopters, forcing the AA to take the civilians and security personnel to a safe place. The AA said in a statement that scores of abductees and some AA soldiers providing security for them were killed in the military’s air attacks.
The ethnic armed group released the other passengers and the vessel reached the Buthidaung Jetty on the evening of Oct. 26.
The Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, said in a statement about the incident that the AA abducted 45 security personnel including 14 soldiers, 29 police officers and two officers of the Corrections Department, which is overseen by the military-controlled Home Affairs Ministry.
Tatmadaw spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the military rescued 15 hostages, including 10 security personnel and five civilians. The Myanmar military said the helicopters only fired warning shots to assist the rescue operation. The military said that the AA tied the security personnel into groups of five and shot at them before kicking them into the river. The military added that one of the police officers who survived sustained some injuries.
Khaing Thukha said that the Tatmadaw was shifting blame to the AA to conceal its disastrous bombing. He questioned the Tatmadaw’s statement, expressing doubts about the chances that a policeman would have survived if he was shot several times and thrown into the river with his hands tied.
Khaing Thuka said that all those still being held captive are security personnel. He declined to give the number of hostages or say what the group will do with them.
The police have detained the ferry’s owner and seven crew members for allegedly leaking information to the AA that there were security personnel onboard.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko