Gov't Helicopters Allegedly Hit Myanmar School, Killing Kids

13 people killed in total, per reports
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 20, 2022 12:20 AM CDT
Government Helicopters Allegedly Attack Myanmar School, Killing, Maiming Kids
An alphabet book and a notebook lie on top of an elevated wooden floorboard of a middle school in Let Yet Kone village in Tabayin township in the Sagaing region of Myanmar on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, the day after an air strike hit the school. The attack killed a number of adults and children.   (AP Photo)

Government helicopters have attacked a school and village in north-central Myanmar, killing at least 13 people including seven children, a school administrator and an aid worker said Monday. Civilian casualties often occur in attacks by the military government on pro-democracy insurgents and their allies. However, the number of children killed in the air attack last Friday in Tabayin township in Sagaing region appeared to be the highest since the army seized power in February last year, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, the AP reports. The army’s takeover triggered mass nonviolent protests nationwide. The military and police responded with deadly force, resulting in the spread of armed resistance in the cities and countryside.

Fighting has been especially fierce in Sagaing, where the military has launched several offensives, in some cases burning villages, which displaced more than half a million people, according to a report issued by UNICEF this month. School administrator Mar Mar said she was trying to get students to safe hiding places in ground-floor classrooms when two of four Mi-35 helicopters hovering north of the village began attacking Friday, firing machine guns and heavier weapons at the school, which is in the compound of the village’s Buddhist monastery. Mar Mar works at the school with 20 volunteers who teach 240 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. She has been hiding in the village with her three children since fleeing for safety to avoid the government crackdown after participating last year in a civil disobedience movement against the military takeover.

She uses the pseudonym Mar Mar to protect herself and relatives from the military. She said she had not expected trouble since the aircraft had been over the village before without any incident. “Since the students had done nothing wrong, I never thought that they would be brutally shot by machine guns,” Mar Mar told the AP by phone on Monday. By the time she and the students and teachers were able to take shelter in the classrooms, one teacher and a 7-year-old student had already been shot in the neck and head and Mar Mar had to use pieces of clothing to try to stanch the bleeding. “They kept shooting into the compound from the air for an hour,” Mar Mar said. ”They didn’t stop even for one minute. All we could do at that time was chant Buddhist mantras.” When the air attack stopped, about 80 soldiers entered the monastery compound, firing their guns at the buildings.

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The soldiers then ordered everyone in the compound to come out of the buildings. Mar Mar said she saw about 30 students with wounds on their backs, thighs, faces, and other parts of the bodies. Some students had lost limbs. She said at least six students were killed in the school and a 13-year-old boy working at a fishery in a nearby village was also fatally shot. At least six adults were also killed in the air attack in other parts of the village, she said. The bodies of the dead children were taken away by the soldiers. More than 20 people, including nine wounded children and three teachers, were also taken by the soldiers, she said. A day after the attack, the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper reported that security forces had gone to check the village after receiving information that the members of the People's Defense Force were hiding there.

(Read more Myanmar stories.)

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