Four men were injured when a Myanmar military artillery shell hit the compound of a religious school run by the Kachin Baptist Convention in Kutkai Township, northern Shan State on Thursday, locals said.
A junta tactical base in western Kutkai reportedly fired a series of shells in the surrounding area at around 8pm, even though they were not reportedly engaged in any ongoing battles with resistance forces.
The weapon in question hit a tree on the school premises, and four students staying in the nearby dormitory were wounded by shrapnel, said a volunteer who helped send them to a local hospital for treatment. They were all reportedly men in their early 20s.
“They were injured because the shell hit the tree first. I can’t even imagine what could have happened if it had hit them directly,” she told Myanmar Now.
While she described their injuries as relatively minor, she noted that one of the students was hit by “a lot” of fragments.
A man who lives in Kutkai’s administrative centre said that the artillery fire could be heard across the town.
“Some people said that they heard light weapons as well, but I didn’t. I only heard the heavy artillery shells going off. There was no battle, either,” said the local man.
He added that as of Friday morning, regular business had resumed in Kutkai and that there did not appear to be an increased military presence around the town, as typically happens after a clash.
The military council rarely, if ever, releases statements about hitting civilian targets in its operations.
Frequent battles have recently been taking place in northern Shan State between the junta’s forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). The Arakan Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army are also among the armed groups active in the region.
One such clash broke out on Wednesday in Kutkai with the KIA, and another with the MNDAA in neighbouring Lashio Township, near the village of Loi Hing. The Kokang armed group claimed that two junta soldiers were killed and six injured.