Five villagers killed in junta airstrike in northern Karen State

A junta aerial assault destroyed 10 houses and a Baptist church in northern Karen State’s Hpapun (Mutraw) District last Thursday, killing five local residents, including a two-year-old child. 

Two school buildings, a Catholic church, and 21 houses also sustained damage, according to a statement by the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG).

The child’s mother, a Catholic priest, and a Baptist pastor were also among the deceased, according to the KHRG statement, which said the aerial assaults struck Lay Wah (Lel War Doe), a village located some 50 miles northwest of the town of Hpapun.

Although the airstrikes hit schools, they took place on a holiday and did not result in harm to schoolchildren attending classes. 

“All the children could have been killed if this had been on a school day,” said a Karen person living on the Thai-Myanmar border, near the area that fell under attack.

Padoh Mahn Mahn, a spokesperson for the Karen National Union (KNU), said two junta aircraft fired on the village a total of six times, with two shots making direct hits.

“There were also several other people injured. They are currently receiving treatment at nearby hospitals and we will send them to the border if necessary,” he said, adding that he couldn’t disclose further details for safety reasons.

The bodies of a mother, her two-year-old child, and a pastor who were killed by a regime airstrike on January 12 (KHRG)

He added that residents of other villages in the area had also fled their homes due to the airstrikes.

Since the beginning of the year, the military has carried out a number of airstrikes on territory controlled by Brigade 5 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the KNU’s armed wing.

According to the KNU, six civilians died in a January 7 junta attack on the Methu village tract in  Mutraw. On the same day, four military aircraft bombarded and strafed three other villages in the same district, using over 50 bombs and 2,000 bullets. 

A map indicating locations of the churches and the school targeted by the junta’s air force (KHRG)

The junta’s attacks on KNU territory have long been concentrated in areas controlled by Brigade 5. An airstrike carried out on Brigade 5 territory in March 2021 killed more than 20 civilians.

“Considering that the military council is a terrorist organisation, such actions are not surprising at all. It is not only the revolutionary groups but also the international community that needs to take serious action against them,” Padoh Mahn Mahn said.

Junta aerial attacks have caused numerous civilian casualties in Sagaing Region and Chin and Karen states since the end of last year. The number of combatant targets hit by the airstrikes, as well as the strategic objectives achieved by the junta air force, remains unclear.

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