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APAC

Myanmar army launches air strikes in Karen state, group says

People seek shelter at an unidentified location in Karen state, Myanmar, March 27, 2021, in this image obtained via social media. Picture taken March 27, 2021. THOO LEI NEWS via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Myanmar army fighter jets launched air strikes on Saturday on a village near the Thai border in territory controlled by an armed ethnic group, the group said, as fears grow of civil war following last month’s military coup.

The Karen National Union (KNU), the armed ethnic group that controls the southeastern region, said fighter jets attacked Day Pu No in Papun district, an area held by its Brigade 5 forces, at around 8 p.m., forcing villagers to flee.

“They bombed the area... The villagers from that area said two dead and two injured,” a spokesperson for civil society group Karen Peace Support Network said, adding that communication was difficult in the remote region and there could be more casualties.

A spokesman for the junta did not answer phone calls seeking comment.

The reported air assault is the most significant attack for years in the region. The KNU had signed a ceasefire agreement in 2015 but tensions surged after the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government on Feb.1.

Earlier on Saturday, the KNU said Brigade 5 forces overran an army base, killing 10 soldiers including a lieutenant-colonel, as the junta celebrated its annual Armed Forces Day with a parade in the capital, Naypyitaw.

The KNU says it has been sheltering hundreds of people who have fled central Myanmar amid mounting violence in recent weeks. The junta’s troops killed dozens of people on Saturday, including children, in one of the bloodiest days of protests since the coup, news reports and witnesses said.

Reporting by Poppy McPherson; Additional reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Alex Richardson and Frances Kerry

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