Anti-regime forces say the military used three helicopters to strafe residents of Hnan Khar in a surprise attack on Friday
At least 20 people were killed when the military deployed helicopters to carry out a surprise attack on the village of Hnan Khar in Magway Region’s Gangaw Township on Friday, according to resistance forces active in the area.
The attack started at around 2pm on Friday and lasted about 40 minutes, a spokesperson for the Yaw Defence Force (YDF) told Myanmar Now on Sunday.
Three helicopters were involved in the assault, said the YDF spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
The 20 people who were killed included both YDF fighters and civilians living in the village, he said, adding that troops inside the helicopters also fired on a village school.
“It could be more than that. Those who went out to pick up bodies were also shot. We can’t say exactly how many yet, as we couldn’t get too close,” he added.
The YDF, which is active in Magway’s Gangaw, Htilin, and Saw townships, was holding a meeting in Hnan Khar to discuss its efforts to suppress illegal logging and drug trafficking in the region when the attack took place, the spokesperson said.
After the attack, the helicopters landed in Hnan Khar and the nearby villages of Yehla and Shwebo with troops, according to local residents.
Hnan Khar is currently occupied by around 150 junta soldiers and members of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia, said one resident of the village.
“The military has been sending Pyu Saw Htee members from pro-army villages to Hnan Khar in trucks. The military is also stationed there,” the villager said.
Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify his claim at the time of reporting.
Most of Hnan Khar’s roughly 1,000 inhabitants managed to flee the village, but some elderly residents who could not be carried out are still there, said the villager.
“We are in so much trouble now. We have to carry elderly people who can’t walk or run. Some people injured their legs or broke their arms while fleeing,” he added.
Another Hnan Khar villager who fled the military raid said that junta troops opened fire several times on Saturday on areas where villagers were sheltering.
“They fired heavy weapons towards the eastern side of the Myittha River and combed through the woods outside the village,” he said.
The YDF spokesperson said the military torched three houses north of the now nearly deserted village on Sunday morning.
There was also shelling in the eastern part of the village later in the day, as well as more fires, according to one local woman who spoke to Myanmar Now on Sunday afternoon.
“Nobody dares to go back to the village. We heard there are troops hiding there now,” said the woman, who added that she had also heard that a number of people had been arrested since the attack on Friday.
Thousands of civilians from other villages in the area, including Shwebo, Yaeshin, and Yehla, have also fled their homes since Friday’s air raid, according to multiple sources.
According to all of the sources Myanmar Now spoke to, there have been no clashes between the military and the YDF since Friday.
On Saturday, state media reported that the raid was carried out after the military received information that the YDF was holding a meeting in Hnan Khar.
“The venue was raided at around 2:40pm and terrorists fled in disarray across the Myittha River, east of the village, after a clash,” said the junta’s English-language mouthpiece, the Global New Light of Myanmar.
The report, which did not mention the use of helicopters in the attack, claimed that regime forces found the bodies of six people, as well as guns and ammunition.
A number of villages in Gangaw Township have been targeted by regime offensives in recent months, with Hnan Khar being among the hardest hit. Nearly 60 houses in the village were torched during earlier raids.
Gangaw has come under intense pressure since August, when the military suffered heavy losses in a series of attacks carried out on army convoys traveling through the township on the way to Kalay in Sagaing Region.
Tensions have risen again in recent days amid warnings by the YDF that there could be more clashes in the region soon. The group also announced on Sunday that the Kalay-Gangaw Road is closed until further notice