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Thousands flee Sagaing region townships after Myanmar junta raids

Almost 5,000 people have fled their homes after two days of raids on villages in Sagaing region’s Salingyi township, locals told RFA on Thursday.

Troops took several people with them to use as human shields, according to an organization helping victims of the conflict.

The junta sent in a Russian-made attack helicopter on Wednesday morning, targeting villages between Salingyi and Yinmarbin townships. 

On Thursday morning, hundreds of troops stormed Let Taung Gyi village in Pale township.

Local People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) had planted landmines near the entrance of the village but it’s not known whether the junta troops suffered any casualties. They arrested people suspected of planting the mines after entering the village, according to a local who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

“About 10 residents were arrested while they were fleeing to safety from Let Taung Gyi village this morning,” the resident said, adding that the identities of those arrested are not yet known. 

“The column [of soldiers] was in a convoy and moving slowly from one village to another. It had been going for a long time.”

The local said the convoy contained around 300 soldiers and 17 military vehicles that opened fire on villages along the route while a helicopter strafed villages in Salingyi and Yinmarbin townships, according to an aid worker who also asked not to be named for safety reasons.

“Helicopters shot at two villages,” they said. “The Mi-35 fired along both sides of the village road because [the junta] were worried PDFs would come along the road.”

Around 5,000 residents of at least five villages fled their homes ahead of the raids, said the aid worker.

Calls to Sagaing region’s junta spokesperson Sai Naing Naing Kyaw by RFA went unanswered Thursday. 

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.