Three of the more than two dozen regime soldiers killed in a clash in Kayah (Karenni) State’s Hpruso Township over the weekend were officers, according to members of one of the groups that took part in the fighting.
Sources from the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) confirmed that an attack that it carried out together with the Karenni Army (KA) on Saturday left three officers—a lieutenant colonel, a captain, and a lieutenant—among the dead.
Only one of the dead officers, 34-year-old Capt Kyaw Zin Oo, could be identified by name. The other two were known only by their ranks because of damage to their ID badges, said a KNDF member who spoke to Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity.
It was also unclear which unit they belonged to, although there had been some speculation after the fighting that they were from Light Infantry Division 66, which has been linked to atrocity killings in the state.
“We don’t know which battalion they were from as their badges were all worn out,” said another KNDF member who did not want to be named.
The battle began on Saturday morning when the combined force of KA and KNDF fighters ambushed a convoy of around 20 military vehicles carrying weapons, ammunition, food and medicine to Hpruso from neighbouring Bawlakhe Township.
“We intercepted them at around 7:30am and then they called for reinforcements after they realized they were losing,” said a KNDF member who took part in the clash.
Despite coming under heavy artillery fire, the KNDF said that none of its troops were killed, and only one Karenni fighter was injured.
“We had as many people as they did, but we didn’t have as many weapons as them,” said Khu Yi Doo, the KNDF battalion commander who led the attack.
In a statement, the group said that the fighting stopped, it seized eight MA-1 assault rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher, a machine gun, and some ammunition.
A photo of insignia of the dead officers being used as accessories on footwear has circulated widely on social media.
In a separate action on Saturday, the KA reported that it had attacked a junta base on the banks of the Salween River in Shadaw Township. Six military personnel, including a deputy commander, were killed, the group said.
On Sunday, the group released a statement that it had also captured three junta soldiers in plain clothes near KNDF Battalion 3 territory in southern Shan State’s Pekhon Township.
Fighting in and around Karenni State has been fierce since last year’s coup, with new groups such as the KNDF joining forces with established ethnic armies like the KA to resist the newly installed regime.
According to local civil society groups, about 200,000 people, or roughly two-thirds of the state’s entire population, have been displaced by the ongoing conflict.
Correction: This story was updated on May 11 to reflect the fact that three, not two, officers were confirmed killed in the May 7 attack. Other minor changes have also been made.
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