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Myanmar’s junta accuses People’s Defense Force of killing 15 civilians

Myanmar’s junta has accused a Sagaing region People’s Defense Force of killing 15 civilians in an attack on a village, a state news agency reported Thursday.

Locals confirmed to RFA that fighting between junta troops and the local defense force broke out on Wednesday morning at Ngwe Twin village in Ayadaw township.

People Media, a news agency of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, said the defense force fired hand-made mortars, killing 15 locals – including a 12-year-old – at a monastery. It said seven people, including three monks, were also injured.

The report did not give the names and ages of the alleged casualties but said the injured were being treated at the Monywa Military Hospital.

RFA has not been able to confirm the report.

Ngwe Twin village is occupied by several junta-backed militia groups and residents say the local People’s Defense Force often attacks because the army is also stationed there.

When RFA asked the defense force based in Ayadaw township about alleged deaths, the information officer confirmed the attack on Ngwe Twin village but said it targeted a Pyu Saw Htee militia base.

“There could have been [civilian] casualties,” said the man who declined to be named for security reasons.

“There was some resistance against us when fighting broke out at the monastery. Almost all of them were Pyu Saw Htee. But some unrelated people may have been affected. We expected this and moved elderly people into their homes to minimize [civilian casualties] when we entered the village.”

He declined to confirm the reported mortar attack, citing the need for security.

The People’s Defense Force did issue a statement claiming responsibility for a June 20 attack on the village and Pyu Saw Htee camp in which it used drones to drop bombs.

More than 8,000 people have been killed across Myanmar due to armed clashes following the February 2021 military coup according to reports last month by independent research group ISP (Myanmar) and the Oslo Peace Center.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.