Airstrikes in central Myanmar on Tuesday killed dozens of people, local media and a witness told AFP, as the United Nations and Western powers condemned the attack and demanded responsibility.
The Southeast Asian country has been in chaos since a military coup in February 2021 and its economy is in shambles.
United Nations rights chief Volker Turk said he was saddened by the “horrific” airstrikes that targeted schoolchildren while they were dancing, and the international body called for those responsible to be brought to justice.
The death toll in the early morning strike in Kanballu town of Sagaing region is unclear.
BBC Burma, The Irrawaddy and Free Asia Radio reported at least 50 dead and dozens injured.
While the United Nations has not confirmed the extent of the casualties, Turkey has again accused Myanmar’s army of “clear legal obligations… to protect civilians in the face of hostilities”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly condemns today’s attack by the Myanmar military,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Guterres “reiterated the call for the military to end the violence against the people of Myanmar throughout the country.” The spokesman added.
Washington said it was deeply concerned about the airstrikes.
In the year In the year In the year The brutal political and humanitarian crisis in Burma following the February 2021 coup further underscores the regime’s disregard for and responsibility for human life,” said US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel, referring to the country’s former name.
“The United States calls on the Burmese regime to end its brutal violence, provide unfettered humanitarian access, and respect the genuine and inclusive democratic demands of the Burmese people.”
– “Great Pain”
Sagaing region — near the country’s second-largest city, Mandalay — has hosted some of the fiercest protests against military rule, where heavy fighting has raged for months.
Graphic video clips circulating on social media – footage AFP has been unable to verify – show bodies strewn among collapsed houses.
“If we hear him screaming, we’ll save him,” a man can be heard saying in the video. “Please scream!”
A hunter with ties to the anti-coup People’s Defense Forces told AFP that women and children were among the dead.
After finding bodies and transporting victims for treatment, he estimated the death toll to be as high as 100.
Germany’s foreign ministry said on Twitter that it strongly condemns the #Myanmar military airstrikes that have killed dozens of civilians, including children, adding: “We expect the regime to immediately stop its attacks on the people.”
Before the military planes sealed off the village of Pazi Ji, a large number of local residents gathered to open the IDF offices in the area.
Myanmar’s National Unity Government, dominated by ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party and former lawmakers, condemned the strike as a “shameful act”.
“We… share the great pain felt by the families affected by this tragedy,” he said in a statement.
The military, which accuses anti-coup fighters of being terrorists, has faced international condemnation for razing villages, mass killings and airstrikes against civilians.
In March, more than 30 people were killed in a monastery in Shan State.
Last year, a military airstrike on a concert organized by the Kachin Liberation Army in northern Kachin state killed 50 people and wounded more than 70, the rebels said.
At a military parade last month, junta leader Min Aung Hlaeng vowed to continue the crackdown on the opposition.
Last month, the military announced a six-month extension of the state of emergency and postponed the election it had promised to hold until August because the country would not get enough votes.