Heavy Fighting Continues Near Laiza

By Nyein Nyein 8 January 2013

Burmese government forces continued to shell the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) stronghold of Laiza on Tuesday as the two sides engaged in heavy fighting around two nearby KIA outposts, according to a spokesperson for the ethnic armed group.

KIA spokesman La Nan told The Irrawaddy at noon on Tuesday that government troops under Military Operation Command 21 started using heavy artillery against the KIA targets at 4 am.

“They [government troops] fired on our headquarters with 105-mm artillery shells six times this morning,” said La Nan, adding that similar attacks took place on Sunday.

However, two KIA outposts on the hills of In Ta Bum and Hpun Pyan Bum, within the area controlled by KIA Brigade No. 5, have borne the brunt of Tuesday’s offensive, which has included aerial attacks that began on Monday afternoon.

According to La Nan, heavy ground fighting near the two outposts continued until 8 pm yesterday, followed by another round of shelling at 11 pm. The attacks then resumed at 4 am on Tuesday, he said.

Min Htay, a major of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), an ally of the KIA, said that the two sides started exchanging fire at around 8 o’clock this morning.

“We engaged the government troops on Hpun Pyan Bum, which they began to attack yesterday, at about 8 am and continued until 10 am,” said Min Htay.

This new offensive is taking place about 1 km from Lajayang, a major outpost that came under heavy aerial bombardment in the final week of December.

According to Min Htay, two fighter jets and three helicopter gunships attacked Lajayang again on Tuesday, in a half-hour assault that began at around 2 pm. Several houses had reportedly burned down after being hit by rockets, he said.

No casualties have yet been reported in today’s fighting, although there have been unconfirmed reports of the death of one KIA soldier.

Meanwhile, sources say that fighting continues around Point 771, a KIA outpost that was seized by the Burmese government army on Jan. 3 following airstrikes on KIA targets.

President Thein Sein said the government has no plan to seize Laiza, but La Nan said that the current offensive is part of a strategy to take control of the area around the KIA headquarters.

“Whether they are trying to seize Laiza or not is unimportant. The important thing is how much of the surrounding area they can get under their control,” said La Nan.

When asked about the prospects for a resumption of peace talks, La Nan said that under the current circumstances, the KIA is more focused on defending its positions than in returning to the negotiating table.