Four Mrauk Oo residents injured in shell blast after police officer kidnapped

A 16-year-old girl is among four people injured in an artillery shell blast in the historic town of Mrauk Oo in Rakhine state, witnesses told Myanmar Now.

The shell landed near a restaurant late on Monday afternoon, wounding the 45-year-old owner and three employees aged between 16 and 67 in their legs and torsos.

Neither the Myanmar military nor the Arakan Army (AA) has claimed responsibility, but the attack came shortly after the AA reportedly kidnapped a local police officer.

That has led residents to conclude the shelling was meant as retaliation against the AA.

Colonel Win Zaw Oo, chief of the Tatmadaw’s western command, could not be reached for comment. Nor could the military’s True News Information Unit.

For security reasons, Myanmar Now is unable to reach out to the AA for comment; the government has declared the group a terrorist organisation and arrested journalists who spoke to its members.

Eight AA members dressed in civilian clothes and armed with knives and batons kidnaped a police officer who was returning from the market after buying groceries on Sunday morning, according to a statement by the Tatmadaw.

The men also tried to capture a police second lieutenant who was with him but he escaped, the statement said.

Tun Nay Win, secretary of the Arakan National Party’s Mrauk Oo branch, told Myanmar Now he heard an artillery explosion followed by continuous gunfire at about 4pm on April 27.

Other locals told Myanmar Now they heard gunfire coming from near the local police station at around 8pm the same evening, and that the military has since taken control of the area.

The military have ramped up security checks by stopping and searching locals since the incident, several residents who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons told Myanmar Now.

The four injured in Monday’s attack were restaurant owner Nyi Nyi Aung, 67-year-old Than Kyi, 16-year-old Mi Nge and Mya Mya Aye, who is 18. They were taken to Mrauk Oo Hospital after the attack, residents said.

The two teenage girls are from the nearby villages of Ywar Haung Taw and Phaya Ro At. They left their homes because of frequent shootouts near their villages, travelling to Mrauk Oo to take refuge in a camp near the Shite Thaung temple.

Mrauk Oo, which is renowned for its sprawling landscape of ancient hilltop pagodas, has seen sporadic outbursts of violence since fighting between the AA and the military flared in Rakhine state in late 2018.

In December last year three people including a baby and a toddler died and four were injured by artillery fire there.

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