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Kachin army storms northern Myanmar, taking 14 camps

A rebel army in Myanmar seized over a dozen junta camps in the north, an official told Radio Free Asia on Friday. 

Since the Kachin Independence Army launched an offensive on Sunday, it has captured 14 camps near its headquarters in Lai Zar city on the Chinese border, said information officer Col. Naw Bu.

Several townships in Kachin state have been caught in frequent conflict as junta troops and Kachin Independence Army soldiers fight for control of the area’s jade mines, highways, and border areas. 

Since China brokered a ceasefire between the Three Brotherhood Alliance and junta forces, Kachin state’s largest army – not in the alliance – has been a formidable opponent for the military in both Shan and Kachin states. 

Rebel soldiers seized camps on Myitkyina-Bhamo road on the fifth day of the six-day attack.

“The largest camp, Hpun Pyen Bum where 120 millimeter heavy weapons are based, was captured on Thursday evening. Ntap Bum camp was also captured,” he said. 

“Most of the junta’s small defensive camps around Bum Re Bum and Myo Thit were captured. Now, these small defensive camps are being used [by the KIA] to attack big camps, like Bum Re Bum and Ka Yar Taung.”

The junta army has been firing heavy artillery at the Kachin Independence Army’s headquarters in Lai Zar since Thursday, he added. 

The bombardment has impacted not only Lai Zar, but also the border with China. Shells fired by junta troops killed three civilians, including a child and a woman on Thursday. Three more fell across the Chinese border, destroying property, locals said.

RFA contacted the Chinese Embassy in Yangon and national junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun to confirm the army fired shells into China, but neither responded by the time of publication. 

A Lai Zar resident told RFA this morning that the sounds of fighting could be heard everywhere as the junta continued to attack the city with heavy weapons. 

“Since this morning, gunshots have been heard in many places. There were more than eight rounds of artillery fired this morning until 8 a.m.,” he told RFA on Friday. “The shells landed on the other side of Lai Zar city, on the Chinese side and burned houses. Many people in the city have been fleeing to safety.”

Grounded Flights and Closed Roads

The Kachin Independence Army has not had control of these camps since 2011, Col. Naw Bu said, adding they also plan to reopen Bhamo-Myitkyina Road. The highway was closed in July after fighting erupted between the junta and Kachin Independence Army in Nam Sang Yang village, near Lai Zar.

Bhamo Airport, Kachin state in Feb. 2024. (Citizen Journalist)

Clashes in Kachin state’s capital have also impacted transportation in and out of the state. An airline ticket sales representative told RFA resistance groups began attacking multiple flight locations across the region.

On Thursday, the Kachin Independence Army and allied People’s Defense Forces attacked the junta air force headquarters with short-range missiles. The groups also fired heavy weapons at Bhamo Airport, forcing it to close indefinitely and suspend flights.

“Bhamo Airport has been closed since Thursday. The airport authorities have shut down the airport and are not sure when the planes will be allowed to land again,” a representative told RFA, asking to remain anonymous for security reasons. “I am not sure if the canceled flights will be replaced so I am just refunding people’s money.”

A Bhamo resident who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons said fighting in the city continued into Friday.

“The airport was attacked by a short-range missile and the runway was hit and damaged a little. People who are traveling urgently and the sick are having a hard time now the airport is closed,” he said. “Heavy weapons were also firing all night last night. I couldn’t sleep.”

RFA contacted Kachin state’s junta spokesperson Moe Min Thein regarding the closures and conflict, but he did not respond.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn.