Myanmar military bombs Karen State town from air as Karen resistance alliance strikes junta targets

Allied forces under the leadership of the Karen National Union (KNU) clashed with the Myanmar army in Karen State’s Kawkareik town on Friday morning as the military bombed the area from the air. 

An officer in the KNU’s Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) told Myanmar Now that multiple Karen forces active in the state—accompanied by local resistance columns—attacked two junta targets: the township administration office and the district police station. 

After the Karen forces reportedly killed several Myanmar army soldiers and police, the military retaliated by launching airstrikes and airlifting in more troops. 

“Their reinforcements from the air force came at around 10am after they suffered a large number of casualties. They even fired at civilian targets and wards, injuring several people,” the officer said. 

The allied resistance forces also reportedly seized control of the police station jail in Kawkareik and freed the detainees; one of the inmates was said to have died, but further details were not available at the time of reporting.

Battles were still ongoing on Friday afternoon on the old Myawaddy-Kawkareik road and outside the township administration office. Locals said that members of the resistance were patrolling the area around the town, and that the military was continuing to attack from the air.

A member of the Karen allied forces told Myanmar Now from the frontline that the military had withdrawn from a base in Ka Maing Kone village, located near the Asia Highway—which also runs through the area—at around 11am. 

Local Karen news outlet the Karen Information Centre (KIC) reported that a heavy artillery shell fired by the Myanmar army exploded in Kawkareik town, killing one civilian and injuring two others. Another local media group claimed in a social media post that two civilians had been killed and more than one dozen injured. 

Myanmar Now is unable to independently verify details concerning the casualties. 

The military released a statement on Friday afternoon regarding the attack on its forces in Kawkareik, but only named the National Unity Government and a committee of ousted National League for Democracy lawmakers as being involved, as well as a Karen group called the Klo Htoo Baw Organisation—not the KNU or KNLA. 

A Kawkareik local claimed that she heard loud shooting starting from around 10am but that the battle began five hours earlier further outside the town. 

“The battle hasn’t spread to the centre of the town yet but heavy artillery shells fell in the wards at the edge of town,” she explained on Friday afternoon. “They also dropped bombs from aircrafts. I heard people were injured but I didn’t get to see anything for myself as I was too scared to leave my home.” 

Another local said that junta forces from Infantry Battalion 97, stationed at Nay Pu Khan hill some 10 miles west of Kawkareik, started firing artillery continuously at 5:30am, and that the shells had hit villages five miles outside the town. 

“[The resistance forces] weren’t able to seize control of the entire town, but I heard that they successfully occupied [two bases],” the local said.

Kawkareik residents said that Friday marked the sixth time that the military had launched aerial attacks on the area. 

Karen forces attacked the military in the township in late August, targeting the same locations as Friday’s assault, as well as the Myanmar Economic Bank. At that time they reported that 12 junta personnel, including a police major, were killed.

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