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Women, children among 29 killed as artillery hits Myanmar refugee camp

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MYANMAR: An artillery strike that hit a refugee camp near Myanmar’s border with China has killed at least 29 people, including women and children, media and sources said on Tuesday (Oct 10), in one of the deadliest attacks on civilians since the return of military rule.

The shelling took place close to midnight on Monday in Kachin State, the sources said, when artillery hit the camp about 5km from a base in the border town of Laiza run by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which has been in conflict for years with Myanmar’s military.

Kachin media outlets said 30 people were killed and blamed the artillery strike on the military. Reuters could not independently verify the death toll and spokespersons for the junta and the KIA could not immediately be reached for comment.

Myanmar has been embroiled in a brutal conflict in multiple regions in the wake of a 2021 coup, with ethnic minority armies and a resistance movement battling to undermine military rule after a fierce crackdown by security forces.

More than 1 million people have been displaced, the United Nations says.

The shadow National Unity Government (NUG) condemned what it called a vicious attack on civilians and said the world must take action to halt the atrocities and put Myanmar’s generals on trial.

“This act of military council is war crime and crime against humanity,” NUG spokesperson Kyaw Zaw said, adding an attack at the border with China showed the junta did not respect its neighbour’s demand for peace and stability.

Kachin media shared a series of graphic images on Facebook of destruction, which could not immediately be verified by Reuters. One showed casualties on the floor, another more than a dozen body bags lined up.

Others showed men in military attire sifting through the wreckage and a man carrying the body of a small child.

The incident was the deadliest since an air strike in Myanmar’s volatile Sagaing region in April that killed scores of people including civilians.

The military typically denies targeting civilians and blames “terrorists” for violence.

Laiza is the capital of KIA, among the largest of dozens of ethnic groups that have been battling the military for decades.

It sits close to the Chinese border and is home to many civilians living in displacement camps in and around the town.

Khon Ja, a local activist with the Kachin Peace Network Civil society group told Reuters she had visited the local hospital and was told 29 people were dead and 59 wounded.

“The bomb was too strong … the village was totally destroyed and disappeared,” she said.

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