Around 20 Karenni resistance force fighters have been killed during intense clashes in Moebye after the military launched a multi-front ground and air assault on the Shan-Kayah border region.
Heavy fighting between the two sides is thought to have broken out after a coalition of Karenni fighters attacked troops in the area at around 5 a.m. on Thursday morning. Frequent airstrikes are still being reported this morning, and thousands of soldiers have now entered the region.
On Thursday evening, the military used tanks and fighter jets to root out resistance fighters, killing at least 20 and injuring many others who were caught in a heavy artillery barrage, a member of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) told DVB.
“The fighting occurred beside Moebye town. Most casualties happened in Hpaline village where PDFs had gathered to fight back against the military. Soldiers attacked from the rear, shelling the Karenni forces from both sides and causing mass casualties,” he said.
The number of dead reported is notably higher than casualty rates usually released by resistance groups, highlighting the intensity of the assault. Amongst those killed were eight Karenni resistance medics.
“When a medic was injured, the other members of the medical team arrived and tried to treat him. Unfortunately, a shell dropped between them, killing them all. Six of the eight medical officers were killed on the spot, and two others were barely moving. We dragged them off the battlefield,” the KNDF member added, who said the group had so far been unable to reclaim the bodies of other fighters.
Amongst those killed by the mortar was Dr Aung Gyi, a medical doctor from Yangon who had developed a reputation for treating COVID-19 sufferers in the town before fleeing to a liberated area after being arrested by security forces shortly after the coup.
To the south of Moebye town PDF groups from Demoso, Pekon, Moebye, and Loikaw joined forces with the KNDF and the Karenni Army to counter a military offensive near Wariso Palai, a village which had recently provided shelter to IDPs fleeing fighting in Demoso and Loikaw. Two Burma Army tanks are said to have been involved in the assault.
Fires are said to have broken out in Wariso Palai village yesterday morning, causing many residents, including refugees, to flee.
“Because of the artillery barrages, fire broke out.. I would say it could also be arson,” an aid worker told DVB. A member of the Moebye PDF corroborated the claim, telling DVB that troops deployed in Palaing village, located on the Moebye-Demoso Road, were firing mortars at homes and setting them alight.
Local people said that emergency assistance was urgently needed for those in the region. Around 5,000 civilians are said to currently be trapped in the crossfire. PDF groups have once again expressed their need for firearms, and called on the NUG for assistance in procuring improved equipment.
Two jet fighters began shelling villages at around 6 p.m. on Thursday evening in an attempt to end the fighting and retrieve the bodies of soldiers killed.
“There were around three skirmishes in three different locations on Thursday. A tank was destroyed after we hit it with heavy artillery. As usual, they used airstrikes when many of their soldiers were killed,” a Demoso PDF spokesperson said.
Six civilians, including a woman, were injured in the airstrikes, Moebyel Rescue Team said.
“We had to work very hard to retrieve and treat the injured.”