Myanmar rebels launch attacks on military; at least 15 dead

Myanmar rebels launch attacks on military; at least 15 dead
An injured man sits inside a vehicle in Muse, northern Shan state, Myanmar Saturday, May 12, 2018. Myanmar officials say an ethnic rebel group has launched an attack against the country’s military in the northern town, causing casualties. (Thaung Tu via AP)

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — An ethnic rebel group fighting Myanmar’s government launched an attack against the country’s military in a northern town on Saturday, leaving at least 15 people dead and 20 injured, including civilians, officials said.

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army launched three attacks just after 5 a.m. in the town of Muse in Shan state, government spokesman Zaw Htay said on Facebook. Two of the attacks occurred at military bases and the other at a bridge. The 15 dead and 20 injured included civilians, Zaw Htay said.

Aye Myint, a police officer in Muse, said the death toll was 19, and that TNLA fighters used small arms as well as mortars.

Nan Mwe Phown, a Red Cross member who was at a hospital in Muse, said the dead included 13 male civilians and two female civilians, including a pregnant woman, as well as several police officers.

Video on social media showed smoke rising above Muse’s prominent trading center.

The TNLA is among more than a dozen ethnic rebel groups that have been fighting the central government for greater autonomy for decades. In the past few months, clashes between ethnic groups and the military in Myanmar’s northeastern region have intensified, resulting in thousands of people being displaced in neighboring Kachin State.

Myanmar’s army has earned a reputation for extrajudicial killings, torture, forced labor, rape and other abuses against the country’s various minority groups.

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.