Witnesses say Myanmar government airstrike killed 13, including 7 children

WARNING: This story contains details that some readers may find disturbing.

Government helicopters have attacked a school and village in north central Myanmar, killing at least 13 people, including seven children, a school administrator and aid worker said.

Civilian casualties are often the result of military government attacks on pro-democracy insurgents and their allies. However, the number of children killed in Friday’s airstrike in Tabayin township in Sagaing region turned out to be the highest since the army seized power in February last year and ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The takeover of the army sparked mass nonviolent protests across the country. The military and police responded with deadly force, resulting in the spread of armed resistance in the cities and rural areas.

Two books lie in a school in Let Yet Kone village in Tabayin municipality in Myanmar's Sagaing region after an attack
Government helicopters have attacked a school and village in north central Myanmar, killing at least 13 people, including seven children. (AP photo)

The fighting has been particularly fierce in Sagaing, where the military has launched several offensives, in some cases burning down villages, displacing more than half a million people, according to a report released this month by UNICEF.

Friday’s attack took place in the village of Let Yet Kone in Tabayin, also known as Depayin, about 110 kilometers northwest of Mandalay, the country’s second largest city.

Some images were too graphic to publish.

School administrator Mar Mar said she was trying to get students to safe shelters in ground-floor classrooms when two of the four Mi-35 helicopters hovering north of the village began attacking, firing machine guns and heavier weapons at the school, which is located in the village. compound of the Buddhist monastery of the village.

Mar Mar works at the school with 20 volunteers who teach 240 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. She has been hiding in the village with her three children since she fled for safety to avoid government crackdown after participating in a civil disobedience movement against the military takeover last year.

She uses the pseudonym Mar Mar to protect herself and family members from the military.

Debris and soot at a school in the village of Let Yet Kone in Tabayin municipality in Myanmar's Sagaing region the day after an airstrike
Friday’s attack took place in the village of Let Yet Kone in Tabayin, also known as Depayin. (AP photo)

She said she didn’t expect any problems as the plane had previously passed over the village without incident.

“Since the students had done nothing wrong, I never imagined that they would be brutally shot by machine guns,” Mar Mar told the Associated Press on Monday.

By the time she and the students and teachers were able to take shelter in the classrooms, a teacher and a seven-year-old student had already been shot in the neck and head and Mar Mar had to use clothing to try to steal. the bleeding.

“They kept firing at the compound from the air for an hour,” said Mar Mar.

“They didn’t stop for a minute. All we could do at that time was recite Buddhist mantras.”

When the air raid ended, about 80 soldiers entered the monastery grounds and fired their rifles at the buildings.

The soldiers then ordered everyone in the compound to leave the buildings. Mar Mar said she saw about 30 students with wounds on their backs, thighs, faces and other body parts. Some students had lost limbs.

“The kids told me their friends were dying,” she said.

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“I also heard a student shout, ‘It hurts so much. I can not handle it any longer. Please kill me.’ This voice still echoes in my ears,” said Mar Mar.

She said at least six students were killed at the school and a 13-year-old boy who worked at a fishery in a nearby village was also fatally shot. At least six adults were also killed in the airstrike in other parts of the village, she said. The bodies of the dead children were taken by the soldiers.

More than 20 people, including nine injured children and three teachers, were also taken by the soldiers, she said. Two of those arrested were accused of being members of the anti-government People’s Defense Force, the armed wing of the resistance against the military.

Security forces also set fire to a house in the village, causing residents to flee.

A volunteer in Tabayin assisting displaced persons who asked not to be identified for fear of government reprisals said the bodies of the dead children were cremated by soldiers in nearby Ye U township.

“I am now telling this to the international community because I want reparation for our children,” Mar Mar said.

A burnt vehicle stands in a monastery with a secondary school in Myanmar that was attacked by government forces
Security forces also set fire to a house in the village, causing residents to flee. (AP photo)

“Instead of humanitarian aid, we need real democracy and human rights.”

Myanmar Now, an online news service, and other independent Myanmar media also reported the attack and death of the students.

A day after the attack, the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper reported that security forces had begun checking the village after receiving information that members of the People’s Defense Force were hiding there.

The report said members of the People’s Defense Force and their allies from the Kachin Independence Army, an ethnic rebel group, hid in homes and the monastery and began firing at security forces, killing and injuring villagers. It said the injured were being taken to hospitals, but did not name the students’ plight.

According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which oversees human rights in Myanmar, at least 2,298 civilians have been killed by the security forces since the army last year.

The United Nations has documented 260 attacks on schools and teaching staff since the coup, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said in June.

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