In 10 days of fighting, the Myanmar junta’s military has suffered heavy casualties as it attempts to capture key positions held by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and People’s Defense Force (PDF) groups on Lung Ja Bum hill, a strategic location in Momauk Township, Kachin State, according to local residents.
The military launched a ground and air assault on Lung Ja Bum, to the east of Momauk Town, on Oct. 22 and has been shelling the KIA and PDF forces there daily.
According to residents and sources in Bhamo district who are monitoring the fighting, the junta’s military has suffered at least 80 casualties since the operation began. The combined KIA/PDF force has also seized weapons, ammunition, grenades and other explosives from military troops.
However, the KIA’s spokesperson could not be reached Tuesday for an update on the clashes in Momauk Township, and the regime has yet to issue any reports on the battle.
“The military troops are now retreating after failing at Lung Ja Bum [on Monday]. But it is not finished yet since junta forces could launch more air strikes, and the clashes could resume at any time,” said a peace activist living in Bhamo Township who is monitoring the conflict in Bhamo district.
After the junta attacked the hill from the air for three days, a military column of 50 troops approached Lung Ja Bum, but a number of soldiers including a battalion commander were killed when they were ambushed with land mines, the residents said.
The junta shelling is taking a toll on civilians. Man Khon Village resident Daw Than Htay, 45, was killed by an artillery shell explosion on Oct. 26, according to a rescue team in Momauk.
“Most of the people who have fled the villages are children and elderly persons. They are still in need of food, medicine, blankets and clothing,” said a member of the team.
Some houses in Man Pon and Kha Nan villages were destroyed and at least two residents injured by junta shelling on Oct. 29.
However, residents and local volunteers have not been able to keep detailed records of civilian casualties or property damage. Military troops are also restricting their movements.
Since the fighting between the military and the combined forces of the KIA and local resistance groups escalated on Oct. 25, residents of villages in the area have been fleeing into Momauk town, with about 1,000 seeking shelter at churches and Buddhist monasteries there so far.