19 dead in fighting between Myanmar army, rebels

Myanmar 19 killed in clashes between ethnic armed group and military in province bordering China

Myanmar 19 killed in clashes between ethnic armed group and military in province bordering China

The army has been accused of systematic human rights violations against the ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority in the western state of Rakhine, forcing more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh since last August.

The conflict in the north of Myanmar has escalated over the past month and the latest attack marks a further setback for civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi's stated priority of achieving peace amid a stuttering transition from full military rule. Video on social media showed smoke rising above Muse's prominent trading centre.

The Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) launched three attacks on early Saturday in the town of Muse in Shan state, also injuring 20 others, Zaw Htay, the spokesperson said. The sound of automatic gunfire filled the air as ambulances picked up the wounded.

"Nineteen [people] were killed in fighting", the military source said, adding that two-dozen had been injured.

He called the operation "terrorism". Among those killed in the attacks are one police officer and six members of people's militia group. "This is not an ethnic rights movement, this is a terrorist attack".

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Mai Aik Kyaw, TNLA's spokesman, told AFP news agency that they attacked military posts, a casino just outside the town of Muse on a road to Lashio.

He said the attack was in retaliation for recent attacks on TNLA outposts and for a military offensive against its ally - the Kachin Independence Army - in Kachin state, which occupies the southern tip of the Himalayas.

It is unclear if members of the powerful KIA took part in the attacks yesterday.

Myanmar's army has been criticised for extrajudicial killings, torture, forced labour, rape and other abuses against the country's many minority groups. It says that the insurgents are based in Shan and the neighboring state of Kachin, and are demanding greater autonomy.

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