Arakan Army leader urges locals to leave Sittwe and Kyaukphyu ahead of ‘decisive battles’

The warning also served to put the regime on notice that the group plans to push ahead with its bid to take full control of Rakhine State

Twan Mrat Naing, the leader of the Arakan Army (AA), warned on Wednesday that “decisive battles” could break out soon for control of the Rakhine State capital Sittwe and the key port town of Kyaukphyu, and that residents should be prepared to evacuate.

The AA commander-in-chief made the remarks on the 15th anniversary of the group’s founding and amid an ongoing anti-regime offensive that has seen it capture eight townships in Rakhine State and one in neighbouring Chin State.

The AA was founded in 2009 in the Kachin State town of Laiza, where the Kachin Independence Army, an allied ethnic armed group, is headquartered.

It launched its offensive in Rakhine State last November as part of a wider operation carried out by the Brotherhood Alliance, whose other two members are based in northern Shan State.

Since then, it has seized dozens of junta bases and forced. . .

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