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Military calls in helicopter gunships following clashes: Arakan Army

FILE PHOTO: A Burma Army helicopter is seen after transporting journalists to Maungdaw, in the north of Rakhine State, on 27 September 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

The Arakan Army has alleged that Burma’s military used helicopter gunships over the weekend to launch offensives in Na Han, Nga Hann and Wa Net Yone villages, in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township, where some of the ethnic armed group’s troops are based.

“At around 10 a.m. [on 19 November], two helicopter gunships came and shelled the area. The Tatmadaw [Burma’s military] has been launching intensive offensives using both helicopter gunships and heavy artillery on the ground,” Khaing Thukha, a spokesperson for the Arakan Army, told DVB on Sunday.

The use of helicopter gunships — according to the Arakan Army official — was driven by the deaths of seven Tatmadaw personnel, including an officer, in a clash on Saturday.

“One soldier among our troops was killed on 18 November. The Tatmadaw attacked the same area where the skirmish erupted,” Khaing Thukha added. “They launched offensives against AA using aircrafts today because of the fighting on Saturday night.”

If true, the aerial assault would mark a significant escalation in the military’s campaign against the Arakan Army in Rakhine State.

Civilians have been fleeing their villages due to the recent armed clashes in the western state.

The Tatmadaw has not issued a statement regarding the clashes that erupted over the weekend, reportedly between its Kyaukphyu Township-based Battalion 543 and the Arakan Army.

At least one civilian was shot dead on 8 November when troops from the Arakan Army mistook boat passengers on the Kaladan River for Burmese soldiers.