YANGON—Col. Kyi Lin, head of Rakhine State Police Force confirmed that nine policemen were killed by gunshot in an Arakan Army (AA) raid on a police station in northern Rakhine State’s Ponnagyun at midnight on Saturday.
He declined to give more details, saying he was busy with the case at 8:20 a.m. The AA acknowledged that its troops attacked Yoe Ta Yoke Police Station but spokesperson U Khine Thu Kha declined further requests for comment.
One Yoe Ta Yoke villager who requested anonymity also said that he witnessed nine dead bodies lying on the ground covered with tarpaulin. This morning, dozens of villagers arrived at the crime scene a five-minute walk from the village center. He said that one of the nine police officers was from his village.
He said the head of Yoe Ta Yoke Police Station, Saw Thein Tun, and a police constable were present at the station and that there were no signs of military presence in the area as of 9 a.m. Sunday morning. He said that the villagers heard the gunshots at about 11:30 p.m. which ceased at around 12:00 a.m.
According to him, two police officers managed to escape the AA attacks by pretending to be dead bodies alongside other corpses. Ponnagyun Township Police Maj. Nyein Chan declined to comment when contacted by phone on Sunday morning.
The Irrawaddy has seen an initial police report which says that about 100 AA rebels ordered the station to surrender and as the police refused to do so, fighting instantly broke out. The AA rebels seized all firearms and ammunition from the station.
Battle updates released by the AA show armed clashes between the AA and military troops in northern Rakhine State and Chin State’s upper Paletwa region have intensified since early March.
The AA announced that they have fought with southern Rakhine State’s Gwa Township-based Light Infantry No. 563—troops under supervision of Light Infantry Division No.5—in Paletwa Township’s northern village of Pyan So and seized one dead military troop’s body as well as confiscating 16 backhoe excavators, one Toyota car, a dump truck, 60 mm and 80 mm mortars on Saturday.
During the recent fighting, the military fired hellfire missiles at AA rebels using two helicopters. In the same remote Paletwa area, the AA also clashed with Light Infantry No.542 of Kyaukphyu on Friday and claimed to have killed at least three government troops. The AA seized one MA-1 assault rifle from Infantry N0.542 and a captain’s notebook.
The AA update said they are “hunting the troops who managed to escape from the battle.”
The AA previously announced that they killed at least a dozen soldiers, including one captain in fighting in upper Paletwa on Thursday. The Irrawaddy attempted to contact the spokesperson for the Office of the Commander-in-Chief for comment multiple times on Sunday morning but calls went unanswered.
Saturday night’s police station attack is the second of its kind after the AA’s coordinated attacks on four border outposts in Buthidaung Township, which killed 13 security personnel on Myanmar Independence Day on January 4.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the ranking of the head of the Rakhine State Police Force, Kyi Lin, as lieutenant-colonel when, in fact, his ranking is colonel.