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Karen army claims 5 dead after junta helicopter crash

The Karen National Liberation Army shot down a junta aircraft, killing soldiers onboard, a member of the ethnic force told Radio Free Asia.

The group shot a helicopter down in Kayin state while it was enroute to a battalion based in Myawaddy, near the Thai border, he said, asking to remain nameless for fear of reprisals. 

“Two helicopters flew in at around 2:30 p.m. today,” the Karen National Liberation Army member told RFA on Monday. “They were targeted and shot with heavy weapons, missiles, drones, and cannons at the same time while they were landing.”

The Karen National Liberation Army and other allied forces killed five junta officers on board. 

The aircraft were a Eurocopter-356 flying alongside an Mi-35 attack helicopter, he said, adding that the Eurocopter was destroyed during the attack.The Mi-35 went back to the Mawlamyine-based Southeast Military Regional Command headquarters.

“It was fired at with a 0.5 [heavy machine gun] from Asia Road. We still don’t know if it was hit or not,” he said.

The five killed included three majors, a captain, and Brig. Gen. Aye Min Naung, the Karen National Union announced on Monday night, adding that another onboard the helicopter was also injured. 

Karen National Liberation Army joint forces are seen in an undated photo. (Karen National Liberation Army)

RFA contacted Karen National Union spokesperson Padoh Saw Taw Nee by phone for information on injured persons, but calls went unanswered. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the military junta had yet to issue a statement confirming the attack. 

Apart from Aye Min Naung the commander of the 44th Light Infantry, Col. Soe Tun Lwin, acting commander of Light Infantry Battalion 9, and pilot Col. Toe Oo were among the dead, according to military sources quoted by The Irrawaddy website.

Kayin state junta spokesperson Saw Khin Maung Myint told RFA he was not aware of the incident. 

A downed jet from the battle of Nam Hpat Kar in a picture released on Jan. 25, 2024. (Citizen Journalist)

On Jan. 3, the Kachin Independence Army reported they shot down a military helicopter that was delivering rations to Nar Hpawt military camp in Waingmaw township, Kachin state. The group said the attack destroyed the helicopter and killed the regime soldiers on board.

The Kachin Independence Army also claimed to have shot down a junta fighter jet on Jan. 16 near Nam Hpat Kar village in Kutkai township in northern Shan state.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.