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Fighting in Myanmar’s Kachin state kills at least 15 villagers

At least 15 civilians died during fierce fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and junta forces in Hpakant township, in Myanmar’s northernmost Kachin state.

The battle has been raging since Monday, residents of Se Zin village told RFA.

Two children were among the civilians killed in airstrikes and ground offensives and the number of casualties may be much higher.

“Although it is estimated that there are many dead, I can only confirm 15 bodies at the moment as the situation is still complicated,” a local, who fled the village and did not wish to be named, told RFA on Friday.

“There are many dead and we got out of there as quickly as possible. We are trying to make contact with people who have reached Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, and those who returned home, to confirm the casualties.”

Some local media outlets reported the death toll was between 30 and 50 people, but RFA was unable to independently verify the numbers because phone and internet access to Hpakant township has been cut off for the past year.

One resident told RFA people fled the village empty-handed and are in urgent need of food and clothing

Win Ye Tun, Kachin state’s Military Council Minister for Social Affairs, told RFA efforts were being made to provide supplies to IDPs and confirm the number of casualties.

“Details of the death toll are not yet known but we will confirm them step by step,” he said.  “We are ready to assist but if a region is at war we can only help when we are allowed. There will be support [in the village] and support for those who fled.”

Earlier this week junta troops burned down as many as 400 homes in Se Zin.

The fighting came in response to an attack on Monday by KIA and People’s Defense Forces (PDFs), who captured a military camp in Se Zin and a pro-junta Shanni Nationalities Army camp at a village in Homalin township.

In mid-July troops and opposition militia fought for a week near Se Zin.

Famous for its jade mines, Hpakant is one of the most heavily-armed townships in Kachin state and the scene of frequent battles. The township is close to the border with Sagaing region, where there is also strong armed resistance to junta forces.

Se Zin used to house more than 3,000 people in around 600 homes but most residents have fled to other villages around 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.

Some 7,400 people have been forced to flee their homes in Kachin state since the February, 2021 coup, according to the UNHCR. That is less than one percent of the 903,000 IDPs across Myanmar.