15 May 2024, 17:20

Myanmar air strike wounds around 20 at clinic: media, armed group

BANGKOK, Thailand, May 15, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - A Myanmar military air strike on a medical clinic wounded around 20 people in western Rakhine state, according to an ethnic armed group, a resident and local media on Wednesday. 

Clashes have rocked Rakhine since the Arakan Army (AA) attacked security forces in November, ending a ceasefire that had largely held since a military junta's coup in 2021.

AA fighters have seized territory, including along the border with India and Bangladesh, piling further pressure on the junta as it battles opponents elsewhere across the Southeast Asian country.

"I heard a very loud sound of jet fighters flying last night then I heard explosions around midnight," a resident of Wea Gyi Htaunt village, near the town of Kyauktaw, told AFP.

"As soon as I knew it was an air strike, our family fled our house and hid in the woods," she said, requesting anonymity for security reasons. 

"I heard that tens of people who were outpatients, medical staff, and local villagers, got injured."

At least 20 people, including outpatients, carers and staff were wounded in the attack that came shortly after midnight, the AA said on its Telegram account. 

Five of those were seriously wounded and the clinic had been almost entirely destroyed, it said.

Local media also reported the strike and said 15 people had been wounded.

The resident said the AA had previously taken over the running of the clinic, located near Wea Gyi Htaunt.

The military had shelled the area repeatedly in recent days, she said.

Communication with Rakhine is extremely difficult, with most mobile networks down.

AFP has asked the junta for comment. 

The AA is one of several armed ethnic minority groups in Myanmar's border regions, many of whom have battled the military since independence from Britain in 1948 over autonomy and control of lucrative resources.

The AA claims to be fighting for more autonomy for the state's ethnic Rakhine population.

Fighting had spread to 15 of Rakhine state's 17 townships since the November outbreak, the UN's human rights chief said last month.

Hundreds of people have been killed or wounded and more than 300,000 displaced, it said.

Clashes between the AA and the military in 2019 roiled the region and displaced around 200,000 people.

The military launched a crackdown on the Rohingya minority there in 2017 which is now the subject of a United Nations genocide court case.

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