Myanmar’s military leveled parts of the town of Mindat on Saturday, trying to quell the anti-coup rebellion that spread to the northwestern town.
The fighting in Mindat reflects growing chaos in the country since the Feb. 1 coup overthrowing elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Reuters reported.
The military imposed martial law in Mindat, a hillside town about 60 miles from the border with India, on Thursday.
“We are running for our lives,” one Mindat resident told Reuters. The person said around 20,000 people, most of them women and children, were trapped in the town. “My friend’s three nieces were hit by shrapnel. They are not even teens.”
Social media was flooded with photos of homes with windows shattered by bullets, helicopters strafing the area, homes on fire and wounded civilians.
Reports said the military had taken control of the city and was searching homes and arresting men.
The military hit homes and temples in the community, journalist Shafiur Rahman tweeted, while the local resistance fighters stopped fighting because the military was using detainees as human shields.
Rahman said four civilian defense fighters were killed, and 20 soldiers died in the fighting.
The US Embassy tweeted a call to end the violence against civilians. “The military’s use of weapons of war against civilians, including this week in Mindat, is a further demonstration of the depths the regime will sink to to hold onto power. We call on the military to cease violence against civilians.”
News outlet Myanmar Now reported clashes took place in another town in Chin State, Kampetlet, about 30 miles south of Mindat, on Thursday. it was the first time the violence spread to the town, which has been the scene of continuous protests since the coup.
Protests continued throughout the country Saturday. While smaller than the massive marches seen in February, hundreds took to the streets despite threats of crackdowns in dozens of cities and towns.