- Kachin Independence Army fighters claimed Wednesday to have shot down a Burmese military helicopter.
- The rebel group is one of several ethnic resistance forces combating Burma’s military dictatorship.
- Burma has been ruled by military junta since the 2021 overthrow of democratically-elected State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Fighters from an ethnic minority group battling Burma’s military government said they shot down a helicopter believed to be on a resupply mission in a combat zone in the northern state of Kachin on Wednesday.
The helicopter was shot down soon after taking off from an army outpost to return to its base in Myitkyina township, the state’s capital, around 11:50 a.m., Col. Naw Bu, a spokesperson for the Kachin Independence Army, told The Associated Press.
Burma’s military, which came to power in February 2021 after seizing power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, has been battling pro-democracy resistance forces loosely allied with armed ethnic minority groups seeking greater autonomy.
There was no immediate comment from the military government about the helicopter claim and The Associated Press was unable to contact any witnesses in the remote area. A spokesperson for Kachin Human Rights Watch, who asked to be identified only by his first name Jacob for fear of being arrested by the military, said the group’s members in the area had confirmed to him that a helicopter had crashed there.
Independent media sympathetic to the resistance movement also cited witnesses to the crash and at least two videos circulating on social media showed an object apparently on fire and trailing black smoke make a steep and uncontrolled dive into a hilly area. The falling object was not readily identifiable.
Naw Bu said the aircraft crashed near the Nahpaw army outpost, close to Nam San Yang village in Waing Maw township, which is about 240 miles northeast of Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city.
He said the number of casualties was unknown.
The military government has control of air space and frequently carries out bombing and strafing missions against which resistance forces have little effective defense. The raids frequently cause civilian casualties.
In October 2022, airstrikes killed as many as 80 people, including members of the Kachin Independence Army, guests and entertainers at the group’s anniversary celebration in a remote mountainous area in Kachin’s Hpakant township.
About a year later, the military was accused of carrying out an airstrike that killed about 30 people, including about a dozen children, in a camp for displaced persons in Laiza, a town that also hosts the Kachin Independence Army headquarters.
The Kachin Independence Army, which is better armed and has more combat experience than other ethnic armed groups, in May 2021 claimed to have shot down another military helicopter.