Junta forces carried out raids on six villages along the border between Katha Township in Sagaing Region and Mabein Township in northern Shan State in recent days, burning some 600 homes.
A junta column of around 150 troops entered Katha from the Mabein village of Nga Oh on February 9, clashing with local resistance forces near the community of Alel Kyun that day, and again near Mei Ngo village on February 11.
Six civilians were killed as the column rampaged through the Katha Township villages of Mei Ngo, Ingyi, Hlebo, Tetulel, Thayakone and Hpayar Taung until Monday, two local sources told Myanmar Now.
Locals documented the damage in three of the communities, counting 25 homes that had been burned in Mei Ngo, 290 in Ingyi and 270 in Hlebo, in addition to cowsheds and barns.
Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify the extent of the damage.
A 30-year-old woman from Ingyi said that the advancing soldiers came from the west and started torching houses at around 2:45pm on Sunday, setting fires that could not be put out by residents—who fled the attack—until 10pm that night.
The bodies of two men—38-year-old Win Zaw Oo and 20-year-old Zin Myo Ko—who had been tending to their cattle were found at the edge of the woods to the west of Ingyi after the junta’s departure.
“They appeared to have run into the junta forces while setting their cows free in the woods. We heard two gunshots and shortly after that, the military started marching into the village,” she said.
The four other slain individuals were Ingyi residents killed between their home village and Hlebo, but further information about the victims was not available at the time of reporting.
A 40-year-old resident of the targeted area told Myanmar Now that the military column was intercepted by Battalion 3 of the Katha District People’s Defence Force, which falls under the command of the publicly mandated National Unity Government, as well as the township’s People’s Defence Team.
More than 2,000 people were reportedly displaced by the arson attacks.
The Myanmar army soldiers in question returned to western Hlebo on Tuesday, and gunshots were heard coming from the village, but little else was known about their presence there.
In January, the military also targeted Alel Kyun, which is located on the eastern shore of the Ayeyarwady River, burning around 30 homes and a school.
The junta has become increasingly reliant on the use of the Ayeyarwady River to send supplies, ammunition, weapons and reinforcement troops through Sagaing to Kachin State, but is frequently intercepted by resistance forces based in Htigyaing, Katha and Myohla townships.
The military council has not released any information on its activities in the region.