Civilians killed by artillery shell near Laukkai

It was the second time in less than two weeks than residents attempting to flee the town have fallen victim to shelling

A group of civilians attempting to flee the besieged town of Laukkai in northern Shan State were killed Wednesday morning after being hit by an artillery shell, according to local sources.

The number of casualties could not be confirmed at the time of reporting, but is believed to have been at least 10.

Laukkai, which is located near the border with China and serves as the administrative centre of the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, has been surrounded by anti-regime forces for nearly two weeks.

The victims had reportedly left the town by car but decided to turn back after hearing the sound of heavy artillery fire.

“As they were returning due to the dangerous road conditions, a shell struck their car,” said a local man who spoke to Myanmar Now shortly after the incident.

According to the man, the shell was likely fired by the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), a member of the ethnic alliance that has been waging a major offensive against the junta since late last month.

“It was fired by the Kokang armed group,” he said, referring to the MNDAA. “The junta army had not yet commenced firing at that time. The shell overshot the army’s position and struck the car.”

Li Kyar Win, the MNDAA’s spokesperson, denied the claim, saying that the shell was fired by junta troops stationed at the Laukkai Regional Operations Command (ROC) centre north of the town.

“The Laukkai ROC fired the shell that hit the car. There was no fighting going on, but for the past few days, the ROC has been firing heavy artillery around Laukkai,” he said.

On November 11, an artillery shell believed to have been fired by regime forces killed six people and injured many others as thousands attempted to flee Laukkai amid growing tensions.

While that incident deterred many others from attempting to leave, deteriorating conditions in Laukkai, including a lack of electricity and rapidly rising food prices, have prompted some to try to escape.

According to sources, the MNDAA and its allies are moving closer to Laukkai in a bid to take control of the town. They have now taken up position in Parhsinkyaw, a village about seven miles away, the sources said.

The MNDAA already controls Chin Shwe Haw, another important town on the Myanmar-China border, and has captured dozens of junta outposts around the conflict zone.

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