At least six children were killed and 17 injured when army helicopters fired on a school in Burmamedia and residents reported Monday, as the army said it opened fire because rebels were using the building to attack its forces.
Burma was plagued by violence since the military overthrew an elected government early last year. Opposition movements, some of them armed, have since emerged across the country, which the army has countered with lethal force.
Reuters could not independently verify details of the violence that took place in the village of Let Yet Kone in the central region of Sagaing on Friday.
According to reports on the Mizzima and Irrawaddy news portals, army helicopters opened fire on the school located in a Buddhist monastery in the village.
Some children were killed on the spot by the gunfire, while others died after troops entered the village, according to reports.
Two residents, who declined to be identified for security reasons, said by telephone that the bodies were then transported by the army to a township 11 km (7 miles) away and buried.
Footage posted to social media showed what appeared to be damage including bullet holes and bloodstains in a school building.
In a statement, the army said that the Kachin Independence Army, a rebel group, and the People’s Defense Force (PDF), an umbrella organization of armed guerrillas whom the junta calls “terrorists”, s were hidden in the monastery and used the village to transport weapons to the region.
Security forces sent by helicopter carried out “a surprise inspection” and were attacked by PDFs and KIAs inside the houses and the monastery, he added.
He said security forces reacted and said some villagers were killed in the clash and the injured were taken to government hospitals for treatment. The statement accused the armed groups of using villagers as human shields and said weapons, including 16 pipe bombs, were subsequently seized.
In a statement after Friday’s violence, Myanmar pro-democracy shadow governmentknown as the National Unity Government (NUG), accused the junta of “targeted attacks” on schools.
The NUG also called for the release of 20 students and teachers it said had been arrested following the airstrikes.
According to Save the Children, a non-governmental organization, documented violent attacks on schools rose to around 190 in 2021 in Myanmar, from 10 the previous year.
The use of schools as bases by the military and armed groups has also increased across the country, the organization said in a report this month, disrupting education and putting children at risk.