Myanmar’s military says it carried out a fatal strike on a rural gathering organized by rebel opponents last week, adding that people who were murdered were compelled to join the “terrorists.”
According to media accounts, up to 100 people, including children, were killed in Tuesday’s air strike in the Sagaing district of northwest Myanmar, making it the bloodiest in a recent run of military air assaults.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since a 2021 coup ended a decade of tentative reform that included rule by a civilian government led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Some opponents of military rule have taken up arms, in places joining ethnic minority insurgents, and the military has responded with air strikes and heavy weapons, including in civilian areas.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the air attack in Sagaing and called for those responsible to be held accountable, his spokesperson said, adding that Guterres “reiterates his call for the military to end the campaign of violence against the Myanmar population throughout the country”.
Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun told military broadcast channel Myawaddy late on Tuesday the attack on the ceremony held by the National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration, for their armed People’s Defence Force was aimed at restoring peace and stability in the region.
“During that opening ceremony, we conducted the attack. PDF members were killed. They are the ones opposing the government of the country, the people of the country,” said Zaw Min Tun.
“According to our ground information we hit the place of their weapons’ storage and that exploded and people died due to that,” he said.
Referring to accusations of civilian casualties, he said “some people who were forced to support them probably died as well”.