A major Burmese ethnic rebel group has claimed to have shot down a helicopter belonging to the country’s military. The incident comes amid continuing protests against the recent coup that ousted Myanmar’s civilian government.
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said the helicopter had been shot down on Monday in Myanmar’s northernmost province of Kachin. The aircraft is said to have been destroyed after Myanmar’s military launched airstrikes against the rebels.
“They used jet fighters and helicopter gunships since eight this morning to attack our troops. Our troops fired back and this was how the helicopter was shot down,” a spokesman for the militant group has said, without elaborating what weaponry had been used to bring the helicopter down.
Footage circulating online shows the helicopter – likely a Mi-17 transport-assault aircraft – sustaining an apparent hit from a portable anti-aircraft missile launcher.
The helicopter caught fire immediately after the hit, spinning out of control and ultimately crashing into the ground.
It was not immediately clear how many people were on board the aircraft and the crew and passengers’ fate remains unknown. Myanmar’s military has remained silent on the incident and did not confirm or deny the downing of the aircraft.
3.5.2021 Kachin State, Bhamo District, Momauk Township At around 9:00 am, the military council troops fired heavy artillery shells at KIA Battalion 25 area east of Myothit. Our KIA successfully shot down a Mi-35 military helicopter Source Myu tsaw kasa pic.twitter.com/CsjUQiOLxn— DEMOCRACY FOR BURMA (@peacerunning) May 3, 2021
The KIA’s claimed downing comes as anti-coup protests continue across Myanmar. On Monday, vigils commemorating victims of the protests, as well as several marches, have been held across the country.
Residents of Kan Pauk in Tanintharyi Region held an anti-coup vigil before dawn on Monday in support of the National Unity Government, demanding the release of the regime's detainees, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. #WhatsHappeninglnMyanmar pic.twitter.com/YtPvdZLUGU— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) May 3, 2021
Multiple people were killed over the weekend during protests that have been called by their organizers “the global Myanmar spring revolution.” The protests, being held on an almost daily basis for three months already, have resulted in the deaths of at least 765 protesters, according to the tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group.
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The country was plunged into chaos on February 1, when the military seized power, detaining democratically-elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other key politicians. The military alleged the comfortable win back in November, secured by then-ruling party, was a result of election fraud. The coup ended a short period of civilian rule in Myanmar, which had been controlled by the military for decades since the early 1960s until 2011.
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