Teenager killed, several civilians injured as KIA seizes junta base in northern Shan State

Civilians were hit by shrapnel when the military fired heavy artillery during the battle for the base, and one 15-year-old boy later died of his injuries

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) claims to have seized a junta outpost in Kutkai Township, northern Shan State, after a battle on Tuesday that resulted in the death of a 15-year-old villager. 

Battalion 9 of the KIA attacked a junta force stationed in Kawng Yar, a village east of the Lashio-Muse highway and eight miles northeast of the large village tract of Nam Hpat Kar, Kutkai Township, on Tuesday, leading to an hourlong clash, according to KIA spokesperson Colonel Naw Bu.

“They stationed there restrict our movements. That is why our forces seized control of the outpost. We managed to eliminate their position but we didn’t keep our fighters there,” Col. Naw Bu said.

No KIA fighters had been injured and the number of casualties on the junta side was not known, according to Col. Naw Bu.

A heavy artillery shell fired by the military during the fighting landed and detonated in Nam Hpat Kar village, killing a teenager, the spokesperson added.

A villager living in Kawng Yar confirmed that around 100 soldiers had set up a base inside their village and that a battle in the village lasted around an hour on Tuesday.

“A serious battle broke out yesterday and both sides were firing small arms and artillery. It appears that the KIA initiated the attack,” said the villager.

The military council has yet to release a statement regarding the clash.

According to the local resident, reinforcement troops numbering about 60 were deployed to a temporary base near Kawng Yar the day after the battle in the village.

Col. Naw Bu said the KIA had not been involved in any fighting in northern Shan State after Tuesday’s clash. He said that the KIA’s interception of junta columns led to fighting that day, but that this had only occurred in Kachin State.

During Tuesday’s battle in Kawng Yar, the junta’s Infantry Battalion 123a, which was stationed eight miles away in Nam Hpat Kar, fired heavy artillery shells starting at around 4pm, local sources said.

Despite keeping the Lashio-Muse highway open to traffic during and after the battle, the military kept firing heavy artillery in and near Nam Hpat Kar on Wednesday, according to the Kawng Yar resident who spoke to Myanmar Now. 

At least 10 heavy artillery shells detonated in Kawng Yar and set fire to at least one house, the villager said. Artillery shells hit two houses in one of Nam Hpat Kar’s wards, and a mother and her two children, as well as a 20-year-old woman named Mary, were hit by shrapnel.

Two boys wounded by an artillery shell in Kawng Yar: Brang Seng, age 9, and Naw Pa, age 15, who died of his injuries (Supplied)

The mother and boys injured in the shelling—identified as 46-year-old Hkawng Nang, 15-year-old Naw Pa, and nine-year-old Brang Seng—were taken to Kutkai’s general hospital by Nam Hpat Kar’s social welfare group, but Naw Pa died at the hospital at around 9pm.

“The battle lasted an hour and was quite far away from the village, but a heavy artillery shell fell on a house in the evening of July 18,” said another local civilian, who is currently displaced from his home. “One person died and the other victims are getting medical care.”

Over 150 villagers from Kawng Yar’s 43 households were forced from their homes and are currently sheltering at a church in Hko Mone village, between Kutkai and Nam Hpat Kar. 

Displaced people from Kawng Yar sheltering at the church in Hko Mone village (Supplied)

A number of battles have broken out recently between junta forces and KIA and other resistance forces in northern Shan State and nearby areas of Kachin State. A junta convoy leaving Nam Hpat Kar village on Sunday came under attack twice by KIA fighters in Kutkai Township.

The junta has deployed over 1,000 soldiers in assaults near Laiza, northern Shan State, since the beginning of July. The KIA has also intercepted and fought with junta forces based in Myitkyina and Bhamo, Kachin State, as they advanced into the state’s Waingmaw and Momauk townships.

The junta force that left Kutkai on Sunday morning clashed with fighters of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, an ethnic armed group and sometime ally of the KIA, for half an hour that day. Another military convoy was ambushed at least three times while travelling the Union Highway near Kutkai between July 9 and 11.

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