Thousands displaced by shelling and air raids in Depayin

Air raids and shelling forced thousands of people from at least nine villages in Sagaing Region’s Depayin Township to flee over the weekend, according to local sources.

The latest attacks, carried out on Saturday, come as Myanmar’s junta steps up its use of military aircraft to crush anti-regime forces in Sagaing.

Earlier this month, around 100 soldiers raided three villages in Depayin and torched homes after being transported to the area by helicopter.

On Saturday, attack helicopters were used to carry out airstrikes on Nyaung Hla, a resident of the village, located near the Muu River about 16km southeast of the town of Depayin, told Myanmar Now.

The attack, which also included artillery shelling, forced most of the village’s roughly 5,000 inhabitants to flee, he said.

“We could hear guns and artillery. Some of the elderly who couldn’t run didn’t get out,” said the man, who identified himself by the alias Nyi Naung.

He added that smoke could be seen rising from the village.

“They say the military set motorcycles parked at the monastery on fire. That’s where most people left their motorcycles,” he said, citing reports from other village residents.

Other sources claimed that at least six people were killed in the attack, although this could not be confirmed at the time of reporting.

Another villager who called himself Zero said that a military unit stationed at a nearby bridge fired on the village continuously during the assault. 

“They fired artillery at the houses and shot up the village non-stop. We don’t know who was still in the village or who was killed,” he said.

Local residents said that four of the five helicopters used in the attacks were carrying soldiers. These troops were dropped off near Nyaung Hla on Saturday evening, before the attacks began, they said.

The affected villages were Nyaung Hla, Segyitaw, Thayettaw, Mukatwin, Me Oe, Letyetkone, Weagyi and Yinkyin, local sources reported.

Residents said there hasn’t been any recent fighting in the area, so they didn’t know why their villages were being targeted.

“There haven’t been any clashes around here,” said Zero, who speculated that reinforcements were probably sent because troops based in the area thought they were surrounded by resistance forces. 

“I think they were also too afraid of landmines to go out,” he added. 

On Sunday morning, the Depayin People’s Defence Force issued a statement warning residents not to gather in groups in open fields or cover their vehicles with waterproof sheets, to avoid being mistaken for regime troops.

Regime officials could not be reached for comment.

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