Burma

Arakan Army Raids Myanmar Military Base in Northern Rakhine

By Moe Myint 28 August 2019

YANGON—A tactical frontline base of the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) was raided and no less than 30 soldiers were killed by Arakan Army (AA) rebels in rural Mrauk-U Township, in northern Rakhine State, at dawn on Wednesday, Arakan Army spokesperson U Khine Thukha told The Irrawaddy.

He said fighting was ongoing between the two sides as of Wednesday evening.

U Khine Thukha said the AA staged the attacks on a military station at Lin Mway Taung Hill—a 30-minute drive north of downtown Mrauk-U—and occupied the base within a few hours; his troops then retreated from the hill in the morning after confiscating Tatmadaw mortars, firearms, ammunitions and some prisoners of war.

U Khine Thukha said he is still waiting for updates from AA headquarters so could not provide a detailed battle report.

He said that although he could not give a precise number of Tatmadaw causalities, the Myanmar military retrieved the dead bodies of its soldiers using three dump trucks and took them to Mrauk-U later on. He said two AA soldiers were killed and five were injured in the raid.

“We have staged offensives on Burmese army troops in Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U [townships] the whole night. As their base was occupied, we’ve got on-ground reports that the military is reinforcing more troops to the battle zones,” he said.

Fighting took place directly next to the Yangon-Sittwe Highway in Mrauk-U, so AA rebels temporarily shut down the road for the safety of travelers and civilians in the region, U Khine Thukha said.

He added that on Tuesday night, AA fighters fired 107 mm rockets at a Myanmar navy vessel docked near the Tatmadaw’s Kyauktaw Regional Command No. 9.

Sources close to the AA told The Irrawaddy that nearly a dozen soldiers from the Lin Mway Taung military base are being held by the AA, and that a Lieutenant Colonel or Major was shot and killed in fighting.

Tatmadaw Colonel Win Zaw Oo of the Western Command confirmed that fighting erupted in Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw and Buthidaung townships on Wednesday but denied any heavy Tatmadaw losses.

He acknowledged that his troops in Lin Mway Taung were attacked by AA rebels at 4 a.m. but said only a few soldiers were injured. He said Kyauktaw Regional Command No. 9 was shot with 107 mm rockets but that they hit only trees and caused no bodily harm.

Col. Win Zaw Oo warned the AA not to ambush his troops near villages, saying that if the military returns fire toward where bullets and rockets come from, civilians living in the villages will face potential unnecessary risk. He said AA rebels threw explosive devices at a naval vessel from the Gassipa Nadi Bridge on Tuesday night.

Mrauk-U residents told The Irrawaddy that a woman, Daw Aye Yin from Kyauktaw Tonwship’s Shwe Hlaing Village, was shot in the thigh that night, and that the shots came from a naval vessel.

Armed clashes have been escalating in remote areas of Mrauk-U and neighboring Minbya townships since last Friday, when the army conducted air strikes into mountain ranges about 3 miles from Pan Myaung model village—a model village of more than 2,000 homes.

On Saturday morning, a mortar reportedly fired by the Tatmadaw landed in Pan Myaung Village and killed three children in their home.

Col. Win Zaw Oo previously denied the artillery was fired by the Tatmadaw, instead accusing the AA. He said his troops collected shell fragments from the scene on Saturday.

Sources contacted by The Irrawaddy said the 60 mm mortar shell came from a Tatmadaw artillery base.

Col. Win Zaw Oo acknowledged that his troops set up an artillery battery behind the Pan Myaung Buddhist monastery, which some local reporters confirmed had been randomly shelling mortars on a daily basis.

As of Wednesday morning, several hundred Pan Myaung villagers had fled to safer locations, said Mrauk-U resident Ko Khine Murn Chun.

He said the highway between Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U had been shut down until Wednesday evening.

The armed conflicts in northern Rakhine State have so far displaced 60,000 people and killed several civilians, plus additional suspects detained by the military that have died in custody.

A recent Amnesty International report described fresh war crimes committed by Tatmadaw soldiers in Rakhine State.

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