Rebel groups attack 12 towns in Shan State, with local media reporting a number of military casualties.
An alliance of ethnic rebel groups in Myanmar has launched coordinated attacks against the military in the country’s north, with local media reporting widespread casualties.
Friday’s development poses a new challenge to the military government, which has been struggling to quell resistance to its rule since the 2021 coup sparked fresh fighting with powerful rebel groups in northern Shan State .
The Muslim Brotherhood Alliance – made up of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) – has launched a “military operation”, she said in a press release on Friday.
Pro-military Telegram channels said rebels were attacking 12 towns or settlements in part of Shan state, spanning about 100 km (62 miles).
The three rebel groups – which analysts say between them may number at least 15,000 fighters – did not immediately provide details of casualties or whether they had taken territory, the AFP news agency reported .
But German news agency DPA said they targeted various posts in towns including Lashio, Kyaukme, Naungcho, Chinshwehaw and Laukkaing, which are under army control.
The DPA reported that around 20 soldiers were killed when one of the armed groups took control of the Chinshwehaw customs office on Friday morning.
“The alliance took over the Chinshwehaw customs office this morning and the junta forces were killed,” a Lashio resident, who requested anonymity, told DPA. “There has also been fighting in Lashio since early morning, but we have not had any big news here. »
The Burmese site Mizzima News also reported 20 victims, including soldiers and police officers. The army did not immediately comment on the attack.
The MNDAA said its fighters had closed roads linking the commercial hub of Lashio to Chinshwehaw and Muse, on the Chinese border, ahead of a “major offensive”.
Footage shared on the MNDAA media channel showed fighters in what appeared to be an abandoned camp, with weapons and boxes of ammunition scattered on the ground. It was not specified where the images were taken.
“All the stores are closed and no one is going out,” a resident of the town of Hopang, about 10 km from Chinshwehaw, told AFP. “We can constantly hear the sound of planes and gunfire,” they said, requesting anonymity for security reasons.
A rescue worker from Lashio, who also requested anonymity for security reasons, told AFP that rebels began shelling the military base near the town at 4 a.m. Friday (9:30 p.m. GMT Thursday) and that the army responded with artillery fire.
All flights to and from Lashio airport were canceled on Friday “due to the situation”, an airline ticketing agency told AFP.
Myanmar’s border areas are home to more than a dozen ethnic rebel groups, some of whom have fought the military for decades for autonomy and control of lucrative resources.
In February 2021, the Myanmar military removed de facto government leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a violent coup. Since then, the military has imposed brutal rule on the country and used force to crush resistance.