The Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) attacked the Kachin Independence Army’s headquarters and other bases on Wednesday in a major new offensive including both ground and air strikes, according to local sources. The attacks follow the KIA’s raid on a Tatmadaw base earlier this week.
KIA spokesperson Colonel Naw Bu told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the Tatmadaw was using artillery to shell areas surrounding the KIA’s headquarters in Laiza.
“They started shelling our Laiza headquarters at 2 pm [local time]. They also attacked some of our other bases. They used fighter jets to strike KIA Brigade 2 and KIA Battalion 11,” Col Naw Bu said.
Brigade 2 and Battalion 11 are based in the Hukawng Valley, where the KIA recently announced the launch of a guerrilla-style military offensive, including the laying of landmines, against the Tatmadaw. Illegal mine workers in the area were given a deadline of April 10 to leave the area.
The Tatmadaw’s attacks killed one civilian banana plantation worker and wounded three others on Wednesday, according to the Northern Alliance.
Col Naw Bu confirmed that some civilians had been wounded.
The Northern Alliance is a bloc of armed ethnic groups including the KIA, TNLA, AA, and MNDAA. It issued a statement on its Facebook page saying that the civilian casualties occurred when a shell landed on the plantation at 4 pm local time.
The Alliance said the Myanmar military used both air and ground forces to attack the KIA’s Brigade 2 and Battalion 11 until 4 pm, with artillery barrages continuing until 5 pm.
The Tatmadaw attacked at least five KIA locations in the Hukawng Valley, according to the Northern Alliance, which said the Myanmar military had effectively declared war on it by attacking one of its members.
The escalation of fighting in Kachin follows the KIA’s April 6 raid on the Tatmadaw’s Battalion 86, which is under Regional Operations Command 2, based in Tanai Township.
Peace talks between the Myanmar Army and the KIA have been held several times in recent years. However, they stalled in February after the KIA issued a statement listing conditions for its peace talks with the Tatmadaw.
The Tatmadaw has ordered the KIA to withdraw at least three battalions, including Battalion 14, which was in the Tanai area, and Battalion 12 and Battalion 27 in the Mansi Township area. However, the KIA refused to withdraw, leading to sporadic clashes in these areas. It eventually withdrew from the Battalion 14 base.
More than 100,000 people remain displaced from their homes after a 17-year ceasefire between the central government and the KIA collapsed in 2011.