The Washington Post

Ethnic rebels say they shot down helicopter

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An ethnic rebel group in northern Myanmar said it shot down a military helicopter on Monday during heavy fighting over a strategic position.

The claim by the Kachin Independen­ce Army came as demonstrat­ions against Myanmar’s military government continued in Kachin state and elsewhere in the country. It would be the first aircraft shot down during recent hostilitie­s between the government and ethnic guerrilla armies. There was no comment by the government on the alleged incident.

The Kachin are one of several ethnic minorities that have allied themselves with the nationwide protest movement against the military’s February ouster of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested and remains in detention. The ethnic minorities have been fighting for decades against the government for greater autonomy.

Government offenses are underway against the Kachin and the Karen, another ethnic minority in eastern Myanmar that maintains an armed force and has been the target of airstrikes. The fighting in Kachin and Karen states has displaced more than 45,000 villagers.

A spokesman for the Kachin Independen­ce Army said his group’s forces shot down the aircraft after government forces used helicopter­s and fighter jets to strike Momauk township, where the Kachin seized a base at the foot of Alaw Bum mountain from the government on March 25.

The ruling junta also continues to face a challenge in the cities and towns of Myanmar, where protests are still being held more than three months after it seized power. Security forces often use lethal force to break up the protests.

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