Powerful ethnic armed group in western Myanmar claims to capture base and hundreds of soldiers

BANGKOK (AP) — A powerful ethnic armed group fighting the Myanmar military in western Myanmar claimed Monday that it had captured hundreds of government soldiers when it captured a key command post.

The Arakan Army is the well-trained and well-armed military wing of the Rakhine ethnic minority movement. attack on military outpost They will be active for about six months in their home base of western Rakhine State.

In a video statement posted on the messaging app Telegram, the group said soldiers from the Military Government Operations Command’s 15th Headquarters in Buthidaung township, Rakhine state, had surrendered after the siege.

Buthidaung is about 385 kilometers (240 miles) southwest of Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city.

The reported base capture could not be independently confirmed. Myanmar’s military junta had no immediate comment, and a spokesman for the Arakan Army did not respond to questions from The Associated Press.

fighting in Rakhine state nationwide conflict It began in Myanmar after the military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021 and cracked down on widespread nonviolent protests calling for a return to democratic rule.

Despite having an advantage in weapons and manpower, Myanmar’s military has been on the defensive since October. Alliance of three ethnic rebel groups It launched an attack in the northeast of the country.

The video released by the Arakan Army is said to have been made on Saturday. It depicts Arakan Army fighters guarding men in military and civilian clothes, accompanied by women and children, some injured, through fields and roadsides. Soldiers’ families often live in military camps.

A caption accompanying the video says it shows the group’s second-in-command and his troops after “the final attack in which[they]surrendered in total defeat.”

The video does not reveal the total number of soldiers and their families captured, but in one section about 300 people can be seen sitting in a row in a field.

The Arakan Army announced in a statement on Sunday that it captured the command post on Thursday after a two-week offensive. The next day, another military post was seized, and they claimed that other posts have also been seized in the past two months.

The statement said the attackers captured “weapons, ammunition, military equipment and surrendered prisoners of war.”

Part of the video released Monday shows a young man who appears to be a member of the Rohingya Muslim minority group.

Myanmar’s military has been accused of filling missing troops with Rohingya men from Rakhine state under a recently launched military operation. conscription law. The military is losing personnel through casualties, surrenders, and defections as it faces increasingly stiff resistance on the battlefield.

The Rohingya were targeted in a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that included rape and murder, with an estimated 740,000 people fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017 as their villages were burned to the ground by the military.

Rakhine nationalists aligned with the Arakan Army were also among the persecutors of the Rohingya minority, but the Arakan Army and the Rohingya now form an uneasy alliance against the military regime.

The Arakan Army, which seeks autonomy from Myanmar’s central government, is part of an alliance of ethnic minority forces that launched an offensive in October and captured strategic territory in northeastern Myanmar, which borders China.

Its success was seen as a major defeat for the military regime, boosting the morale of rebellious ethnic minorities and the resistance of the pro-democracy movement.

On Sunday, the Kachin Independence Army, another major ethnic armed group, claimed to have captured Sumprabhum, a township in northern Kachin state.

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