Clashes between Myanmar’s military and People’s Defense Force (PDF) militias in embattled Sagaing region have left at least 30 government troops dead, PDF sources said Tuesday, while reports emerged of soldiers loyal to the junta attacking civilians and looting their possessions.
The fighting took place on Monday as reinforced junta soldiers launched a clearing operation in the townships of Pale, Yinmabin, Monywa, Mingin, Hteegyaing, and Chaung-Oo, according to PDF members and residents. All six townships have seen frequent clashes since the military seized power from Myanmar’s democratically elected government in a Feb. 1 coup.
At least 30 government troops, including a tactical commander, were killed Monday morning when a military convoy triggered landmines outside of Pale township, local PDF spokesman Boh Nagar told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“We had been waiting for the convoy since [Sunday] as we heard a senior commander would be coming along,” he said.
“He was in a small car in the middle of the 23 vehicles and we waited patiently to blow it up. He was fatally wounded in the head. Our area of Sagaing has the strongest resistance and fights the fiercest battles.”
Boh Nagar also claimed that his militia had ambushed a military convoy in Pale township twice on Tuesday morning but said the extent of the damage was unknown.
Additionally, PDF members told RFA that a grenade attack on the No. 2 Police Station in Monywa township left at least two officers dead on Monday, while militiamen shot and killed a soldier in a guard tower in Minging township’s Kyauk-khe-det village the same day.
Also on Monday, four militia fighters were killed in a shootout with local security forces near Hteegyaing township’s Laytha village, a member of the local PDF told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
“The military came in huge numbers, hoping to find many PDF fighters in the villages,” the PDF member said, adding that the soldiers were troops from the junta’s 33rd Division.
“They mostly used heavy weapons most of the time and our young fighters bravely fought them back … [but] four people were killed in the incident.”
The PDF member said that a fifth person from the militia—a 50-year-old man named Tin Nyunt—was “killed after being arrested,” but did not provide further details.
He said soldiers had arrested at least 20 residents of Hteegyaing, including a doctor, from Oct. 9-11, and claimed that around 100 government troops were stationed at the school in Laytha village as of Tuesday.
Speaking to RFA, the military’s deputy information minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun confirmed that fighting had taken place in Sagaing on Monday but denied PDF claims that an officer or any other soldier had been killed.
“In the incidents in both Pale and Hteegyaing, there were some casualties,” he acknowledged.
“The enemy numbers only 10-15. They dynamited our vehicles in the attack. Some of our soldiers were wounded, but not in a life-threatening way, and we confiscated some of the enemy’s weapons and ammunition.”
Zaw Min Tun said that one of the vehicles in the convoy that had escaped the attack in Pale was later damaged in a landmine ambush near Yinmabin township’s Tebin Kan village, leaving several troops wounded.
He added that the military had only suffered major casualties once in Sagaing, during a clash in Pinglebu township on Sept. 22—a claim regional PDF groups dispute.
Residents of Yinmabin township confirmed that the landmine ambush had occurred near Tebin Kan on Monday and said junta troops were quick to respond, forcing villagers to evacuate.
“The clash occurred near Tebin Kan village yesterday,” said one resident, who declined to be named.
“When they reached the cemetery west of [nearby] Waran village, several residents fled with their belongings.”
Soldiers then searched Tebin Kan village before setting fire to two homes and confiscating five motorcycles, the resident said.
Myanmar’s military has attempted to justify its Feb. 1 overthrow of the democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government by claiming the party had stolen the country’s November 2020 ballot through voter fraud.
The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently repressed anti-coup protests, killing at least 1,167 people and arresting 7,219 others, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
On Sept. 7, the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) declared a nationwide state of emergency and called for open rebellion against junta rule, prompting an escalation of attacks on military targets by various allied pro-democracy militias and ethnic armed groups.
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