Myanmar military column takes civilians hostage after being hit by resistance force’s explosives in Sagaing

A Myanmar army column triggered explosives set up by anti-junta resistance forces in Sagaing Region’s Katha Township on Tuesday before retaliating and abducting six area civilians. 

The 200-soldier unit left Katha town at around 10am, encountering the mines in a forested area more than three miles away near Mingalar Thukha village, according to the information officer for the Katha People’s Defence Team (PDT), or Pa Ka Pha. 

“I don’t know if any of them died but I’m sure we managed to injure them,” the spokesperson said, adding that the PDT did not approach the column after the blasts occurred in order to avoid a clash. 

The troops occupied Mingalar Thukha that day, leaving on Wednesday morning and taking six villagers hostage who had been working on farms in the area. The PDT spokesperson speculated that they would be forced to serve as human shields as the military column advanced.

“They arrest anyone they want, anywhere they like. Some of the people have been forced to follow them around for four or five days. Many locals don’t even dare to do farmwork due to the fear of being captured,” the information officer said. 

More than 1,000 people from Mingalar Thukha, Met Lin Chaung, Minle and Thazi villages fled their homes this week to avoid the column, which, according to the PDT, has since been hiding in the forest west of the communities. 

Recent battles between resistance forces and the Myanmar army had recently paused in Sagaing’s northern townships of Katha and Indaw as well as in Shwegu across the border in Kachin State, after the military appeared to have cut back on operations in the area. 

Sagaing has become a stronghold of the resistance movement since the February 2021 coup. 

Large numbers of youth from the region have since undergone combat training with the Kachin Independence Army in neighbouring Kachin State, joining local guerrilla groups to fight alongside the ethnic armed organisation against the junta’s forces.

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