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Myanmar airstrike on monastery where villagers were sheltering kills 17 activists

Myanmar junta forces killed 17 people in an airstrike on a monastery where people were taking shelter from fighting after insurgents battling to end military rule attacked a nearby army camp, members of anti-junta militia groups told Radio Free Asia on Monday. 

The junta’s air force launched the attack on Saturday night on a monastery in Nant Thar village in the central region of Sagaing, killing a monk and 16 other people including three members of the same family, they said.

Sagaing has seen unprecedented levels of violence since a 2021 military coup triggered an insurgency by pro-democracy activists who formed People’s Defense Forces around the country to confront the military.

Junta forces have been accused of razing vilages, carrying out mass shootings and bombing villages indiscriminately as they hunt for members of the People’s Defense Forces.

The airstrike in Indaw township followed an attack on a junta camp carried out by an alliance of fighters including members of the Indaw People’s Defense Force, the Kachin Independence Army, the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, and other groups, activists said.

Nant Thar has two monasteries, one under the control of rebel forces and another occupied by junta forces, said an official of the anti-junta Indaw Revolution group, who declined to be identified for security reasons.

“People were called to the monastery and locked down by the junta troops when fighting erupted and the jet then bombed the monastery at midnight while people were locked down,” the group official said. 

“They must have wanted to bomb the monastery on the mountain,” he said, referring to the monastery controlled by anti-junta forces. “They dropped the bombs on their own monastery by mistake.”

The military has not released any information about the incident and calls to Sagaing region’s junta spokesperson, Nyunt Win Aung, for more information went unanswered.

Junta troops have cut communication links to the village, a frequent tactic after big attacks. 

More than 10 people, including children, were wounded, the Indaw Revolution official said, adding that some were in critical condition.

The dead were cremated on Monday, he said.

The village has been largely empty since April last year when anti-junta forces repeatedly attacked the military camp in Nant Thar, which is on a major road, residents said. But junta troops had prevented remaining residents from leaving, including those killed on Saturday, they said.

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