The military junta suffered heavy casualties in recent fighting with Rakhine ethnic armed group the Arakan Army (AA) in Maungdaw, Rakhine State. The junta casualties included ranks as high as major, according to a video file circulated on social media on Thursday.
Junta troops from Buthidaung-based Light Infantry Battalion 352 attacked an AA outpost in the Letpan mountains northeast of Mee Taik Village in Maungdaw last Friday, killing an AA sentry. Another clash followed in the Letpan mountains on Sunday, which the ethnic armed group said lasted for some three hours.
The AA fighters also ambushed a vehicle carrying wounded junta soldiers on Monday.
According to video of a military funeral believed to have been held by a battalion in Maungdaw, a major, three corporals, one lance corporal and two privates were among the fatalities, with a military officer reading out an edict sent by the commander of the Buthidaung-based Military Operations Command, Brigadier-General Kyaw Htin.
The AA attacked two junta columns in the Wai Lar mountains in northern Maungdaw on Tuesday. Dozens of junta soldiers were killed and several were captured along with their weapons in the attack, sources told The Irrawaddy.
“An AA sentry died when Battalion 352 attacked the armed group in the Letpan mountains. The AA was not happy with that and blocked and attacked that military column. I heard junta officers were killed, and a number of junta troops including a medic captain were captured,” a source told The Irrawaddy.
A 50-year-old vehicle owner and a 20-year-old civilian driver were killed when AA troops attacked their vehicle, which was carrying wounded junta soldiers, on Monday.
A military analyst said the regime is conducting military operations in the Wai Lar and Let Pan mountains because it believes Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) fighters are based in those mountains and smuggling arms and drugs through mountain routes.
“The regime wants to clear the area because it believes ARSA troops are based there. And it is also using it as an excuse to ask the AA to leave the area. But the AA won’t leave. As far as I know, the AA has a tactical post there,” he said.
“The results of the recent fighting might have been different if the military had launched a large-scale attack. I think the military decided not to respond strongly for fear that the fighting would spread to other areas if they did,” he added.
The fighting has however ceased for now due to negotiations by intermediaries. The two sides have agreed to meet after Union Day celebrations on Feb. 12, and clashes could escalate if an agreement is not reached at the meeting, analysts said.
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