Mandalay PDF claims to have caused dozens of junta casualties in recent months

Nearly 20 battles have taken place around Nawnghkio in northern Shan State as part of Operation Kanaung, launched by the resistance in July

More than 80 junta personnel, including officers, have been killed during fighting in recent months on the border between northern Shan State and Mandalay Region, according to the defence department of the publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG) and a local chapter of the anti-regime People’s Defence Force (PDF). 

Since mid-July, some 17 battles have taken place near the town of Nawnghkio (Naungcho) between the military and the Mandalay Region PDF (MDY-PDF), which fights under the mandate of the NUG, as well as alongside the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), an ethnic armed organisation. Nine of the clashes were ground battles and eight were explosive attacks that often involved the use of drones, MDY-PDF spokesperson Osmond told Myanmar Now.

Two junta captains and both the commander and deputy commander of a column were among the military’s casualties, he added, which the NUG’s defence department placed at 82 on Wednesday.

The fighting, Osmond said, “will continue to be fierce,” citing it as part of Operation Kanaung, a joint military initiative between the MDY-PDF, the TNLA, and the NUG’s defence department. It is named for 19th century Burmese Prince Kanaung of Mandalay, who was known for his efforts to modernise the country and the army in the face of British invasion. 

Some 19 troops were killed during the initial offensive of Operation Kanaung on July 15, when resistance forces used handmade rockets to strike a junta air defence unit based in Ingyin Myaing village near the Sedawgyi Dam, and raided a nearby army outpost. 

The MDY-PDF also reportedly suffered one casualty in this incident. 

The Myanmar army responded with a counteroffensive involving some 600 soldiers advancing from eastern Madaya Township in Mandalay into the Nawnghkio area in northern Shan State.

On August 4, the MDY-PDF intercepted a military vehicle carrying 15 personnel near Nawnghkio, killing all men on board and seizing weapons and ammunition. A week later, they attacked a 50-soldier reinforcement unit in the area, causing 10 casualties and injuring six more troops. 

The unit was said to have shot fireworks into the sky as a distress call, according to ground forces in the resistance.

Seven more junta soldiers were reportedly killed in another battle on August 26, which lasted seven hours. 

Last week, the MDY-PDF blocked regime forces that attempted to surround them on September 6, with fighting continuing into the following, leading to another seven casualties on the military’s side. 

More than a dozen more troops were killed in a four-hour clash on September 8 along the road connecting the Mandalay towns of Pyin Oo Lwin and Mogok, forcing the junta to withdraw from a base near the village of Taung Ni. The resistance also claimed to have suffered one casualty. 

The military responded by attacking PDF camps over the weekend, but lost three more junta personnel. 

While the regime did not launch airstrikes against the resistance during these battles, they did reportedly launch an aerial attack on two villages that were not in the combat zone. 

“A bomb fell near a village near Nawnghkio and the ground opened up. It was pretty big,” a local man said. “No one was hurt; it can be said that this time the fighting was far from the villages.” 

He added that residents were not displaced as they had been in previous rounds of clashes. 

However, on Monday, locals in the village of Innma had to flee their homes when the community was occupied by around 30 Myanmar army soldiers, according to a Nawnghkio woman helping the villagers.

“The resistance groups surrounded the village for three consecutive days. The junta soldiers did not dare come out, so the villagers had to leave,” she told Myanmar Now. 

She said that Innma’s elders had “begged” the PDF not to enter the village, and instead offered to escort the regime troops out of the community, but the Myanmar army soldiers refused. 

In April, a previous episode of intense fighting took place in Nawnghkio Township lasting nearly a month, and included several junta casualties and some on the side of the MDY-PDF. 

The military council has not released any information on the fighting around Nawnghkio. 

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