The Daily Telegraph

Myanmar troops ‘kill 11 children’ in helicopter attack on school

- By Nicola Smith

MYANMAR’S army has reportedly killed 11 children in a helicopter attack on a school in its latest atrocity since seizing power in a coup last year.

Several adults are also believed to have died and 15 children are missing since last Friday’s assault in Depeyin, that was confirmed by Unicef on Monday. Citizens have borne the brunt of a brutal military crackdown on opposition, with more than 2,298 civilians killed by the security forces and thousands more imprisoned and tortured.

Villages in the restive region of Sagaing have been under frequent aerial and ground attacks, but the number of children killed in last week’s army assault, about 70 miles north of Mandalay, appears to have been the highest so far.

Mar Mar, a school administra­tor, said staff were trying to help students escape to safety when two Mi-35 helicopter­s began firing machine guns and heavier weapons at the school, located in the village’s Buddhist monastery.

“Since the students had done nothing wrong, I never thought that they would be brutally shot by machine guns,” Mar Mar said.

She described how a seven-year-old was first to be shot in the neck and head as the military fired on the compound for an hour from the air before soldiers entered and continued to shoot.

Mar Mar said she saw about 30 students with wounds on their backs, thighs, faces and other parts of the body. Some students had lost limbs.

“The children told me that their friends were dying,” she said. “I also heard a student yelling, ‘It hurts so much. I can’t take it anymore. Kill me, please.’ This voice still echoes in my ears,” Mar Mar said.

Video footage obtained from nearby residents shows a classroom with blood on the floor, damage to the roof and a mother crying over her son’s dead body. The soldiers are said to have cremated the bodies of the dead children and arrested adults in the compound, accusing them of being members of an armed resistance group.

The UN has documented 260 attacks on schools and staff since the February 2021 coup. Unicef has appealed for the release of the missing children in the Depeyin incident. Hassan Noor, Asia regional director for the charity Save the Children, expressed condolence­s to the families and said schools should be off limits and the safety of students protected. “How many more incidents like this need to take place before action is taken?” Mr Noor said, urging the UN Security Council and Associatio­n of South East Asian Nations to take action.

The military confirmed that troops in helicopter­s had been dispatched to the village after receiving a tip-off that fighters from a rebel group were moving weapons in the area and using civilians as human shields.

Myanmar’s military-ruled government has denied reports that it carried out the air attack.

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