Update: KIA Under Heavy Attack Near Headquarters

Saw Yan Naing The Irrawaddy

Five jet fighters and two helicopters gunships have launched heavy attacks against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Lajayang region, about 11 kilometers from Laiza, where the rebel group makes its headquarters on the Sino-Burma border, according to local sources.

KIA spokesman La Nan said the government army started shooting at bases around KIA headquarters at about 9 am on Friday and were still attacking on and off in the early afternoon. Causalities figures had not yet been reported.

La Nan said he believed orders for the attack may have come from defense officials at the national government level, as lower ranking officials could not authorize the use of jet fighters in civil wars on their own.

Speaking from a frontline base in Lajayang, Min Htay of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), a military ally of the KIA, said five jet fighters came from Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.

“The jet fighters came at 9 am and fired countless rockets,” he said. “It took about an hour. We’ve heard that they’ll come back to shoot us again.

“The jet fighters were very fast. They were red and white. We can’t photograph and film well because we also have to shoot them back.”

John Sanlin, a Burmese war photographer, also said five jet fighters had been sent for the attack.

The jet fighters shot at every KIA base in Lajayang in a bid to take over the region, which is strategically located.

“Lajayang is a very important place,” Min Htay said. “They [the government’s army] want to take it over. If they get Lajayang, it means they also get Laiza.

“We heard they [the government’s army] hired professionals to come and shoot the KIA bases by jet fighters. But, we don’t know who they hired.”

The heavy attacks on Friday came after Brig-Gen Tun Tun Naung, a northern commander of the government’s army, ordered the KIA last Sunday to leave the route to Lajayang by Tuesday, saying government soldiers would be deployed there to work on administrative processes.

The KIA refused to follow the order, which it described as a military threat.

Observers, including Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burma military watcher on the Sino-Burmese border, said the order was akin to a declaration of war.

On Thursday, one man was killed and three people were seriously wounded after the Burmese army shelled locations close to Lajayang.

The KIA resume fighting a bloody war against the government’s army for basic rights and greater autonomy after a ceasefire between both groups broke down in June 2011.

Some 70,000 internally displaced civilians have taken shelter near Laiza since then.