At least 13 people including seven children, a school administrator and an aid worker were killed when a government helicopter attacked a school and village in north-central Myanmar, reports stated.
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 reports said.
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.
Friday’s attack occurred in Let Yet Kone village in Tabayin, also known as Depayin, about 110 km (70 miles) northwest of Mandalay, the country’s second largest city.
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, firing machine guns and heavier weapons at the school, which is located 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 Grade 8.
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 a news agency.
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 building.
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 their 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.
Two of those captured were accused of being members of the anti-government People’s Defence Force, the armed wing of the resistance to the military. Security forces also burned down a house in the village, causing residents to flee.