YANGON —Arakan Army (AA) leader Major General Tun Myat Naing said the rebel group would release police officers’ relatives it took away after attacking a police and military base in northern Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U Township on Wednesday.
“I have instructed [my subordinates] to feed [them] properly and not to scare the children. I have instructed them to keep them well. I will officially hand them over after looking at the situation,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Maj. Gen. Tun Myat Naing said the AA would hand them over either to the government or a local ethnic Arakanese women’s group.
AA fighters attacked the No. 31 police regiment on Tuesday evening and a temporary military base near Lay Hnyin Taung Mountain on the outskirts of Mrauk-U in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning. They took the family members of the police officers with them as they retreated.
“There are men, women, and children among them. We didn’t abduct them. We brought them for fear that they might be killed in the exchange of fire. The [military] planes dropped bombs directly on the outpost. We just rescued them,” Maj. Gen. Tun Myat Naing said.
In a statement, the Myanmar Police Force said the AA abducted seven relatives of police officers during the attack and that the wife of one officer was killed in what it called an act of terrorism.
Among the relatives are the wife and daughter of a sub-lieutenant, the mother, wife, son and daughter of another sub-lieutenant, and the wife of a constable, according to the statement, which included their photos. It said the three children are aged 1, 3 and 6, respectively.
Maj. Gen. Tun Myat Naing said the AA attacked the No. 31 police regiment because soldiers from the Myanmar military’s Light Infantry Division No. 22 had been firing 105-mm howitzer shells both from there and from the military base near Lay Hnyin Taung, which lies about 8 km from downtown Mrauk-U, on a near-daily basis for more than 20 days.
He said the AA failed to destroy the howitzers but did seize some ammunition.
“We have evidence of how long they had been firing with 105-mm howitzers. It is up to the people to decide which side is wrong considering that artillery shells are being fired from the police station. It is not fair to label us terrorists,” the AA leader said.
AA deputy leader Brigadier General Nyo Tun Aung claimed that the military used three fighter jets, two bombers and an attack helicopters in the battle.
The Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services said in a statement that the military gave chase to the AA fighters as they retreated and arrested 23 of them, and that all were dressed in civilian clothes.
Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, from the military’s True News Information Team, said the military suffered some casualties in the attack.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.