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Two Burmese army officials and three soldiers have been captured by the insurgent Kachin Independence Army (KIA) following two days of heavy fighting in northern Burma.
At the weekend a key highway linking Bhamo town to the Kachin state capital of Mytikyina was engulfed in a series of fire-fights after a truck carrying Burmese soldiers was stopped by Kachin troops.
The fight continued into Sunday when the KIA captured the five during an ambush. “They were found hiding in a drain after being pinned down in the [16 July] fight,” said a KIA source. “They were three privates and two officials – a sergeant and a captain.”
They are now in the group’s headquarters in Laiza, and no details have been given on their identity.
The capturing of troops has been a common tactic of both sides since heavy fighting broke out in Kachin state in June, but sometimes with grisly results: on 12 June the corpse of a captured KIA solider was returned displaying signs of torture, despite what the group had claimed was an agreement to exchange hostages unharmed.
The KIA claims the five men are being treated well in Laiza, but no independent verification of their condition can be obtained.
Thousands of ethnic Kachin have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of fighting, which was triggered by the KIA’s refusal to transform into a government-controlled Border Guard Force.
Large areas of Kachin state have also been brought to a standstill – buses are refusing to travel along the Bhamo-Myitkyina highway, and locals report of being stranded away from their homes.