KIA launches investigation into killing of civilians accused of belonging to rival ethnic army

Several suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder of nine civilians who were killed in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township in late January, according to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

The KIA’s information officer, Col. Naw Bu, said on Wednesday that a commission had been formed to investigate the incident, which was allegedly perpetrated by KIA troops and members of a local defence team in Hpakant’s La Wah village tract.

Locals claimed that the nine victims were all found dead after being “taken in for questioning” on January 24 and 25 by troops from Battalion 20 of the KIA’s Brigade 2, which controls the area, and defence team members from the village of Magaung Taung.

The victims were identified as Lazum Tu Lum, 55, Myint Htwe, 50, Kyaw Soe, 49, Lhao Dae Yaw Han, 49, Lazum Htwei Shao, 35, Hpaung Ma Hkawn Bu, 28, In Dao Htu Nam, 28, Tun Yone, 27, and Zoe Lay, 27.

According to Col. Naw Bu, the investigation commission was formed on February 25 and consists of 27 members, including representatives from Myitkyina, Mogaung, Banmaw, Namti and Hpakant townships, where KIA Brigade 2 is active.

“We have formed an investigation commission but they haven’t reported back to us yet. We cannot give you any comment on this matter until we receive their report,” he said.

Multiple sources have claimed that the victims were accused of having ties to the Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA), an ethnic armed group aligned with Myanmar’s military. Their killers were allegedly from UG Black K, which is known to locals as the “Mogaung People’s Defence Team.”

Tun Yone, 27, and Lazum Htwei Shao, 35, were among nine alleged SNA members killed in late January (Supplied)

Magaung Taung, where the group is based, is located near the Ledo Road about 60km east of the town of Hpakant. It is also about 30km from Mogaung, the administrative centre of neighbouring Mogaung Township.

A spokesperson for UG Black K told several news outlets in late January that the group had been holding nine members of a Shanni militia, including its leader, Kyaw Soe, since January 24.

He also said that the nine men were suspected of merely pretending to be farmers.

According to locals, the bodies of the victims were exhumed from their shallow graves and cremated by family members on the same day that the KIA formed its investigation commission.

While the KIA refused to go into the details of its investigation, local sources say that two KIA members and several members of the UG Black K are currently being interrogated. Several other suspects have escaped, the sources added.

On Tuesday, the spokesperson for the KIA commission told the BBC’s Burmese-language service that it had more than 20 suspects in its custody.

The SNA, which was formed in 1989 and operates mainly in Kachin State’s Mohnyin, Mogaung, Myitkyina and Banmaw townships and Sagaing Region’s Homalin, Hkamti and Banmauk, has denied joining forces with Myanmar’s military.

In September of last year, it accused the KIA and its anti-junta allies of killing a prominent Shanni monk and vowed to retaliate for the incident.

The group was believed to be behind the abduction of a teacher taking part in the Civil Disobedience Movement against military rule who went missing in January of this year.

Last month, resistance forces overran five junta outposts in Homalin Township that they said were also occupied by SNA troops without uniforms.

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