IP - Airstrikes by Myanmar's military on Tuesday killed as many as 100 people, including many children, who were attending a ceremony held by opponents of army rule, witnesses, members of a local pro-democracy group, and independent media confirmed the report.

Iran PressAsia: The military is increasingly using airstrikes to counter a widespread armed struggle against its rule, which began in February 2021 when it seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

More than 3,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed since then by security forces.

A witness told the AP that a fighter jet dropped bombs directly into a crowd of people who were gathering at 8 a.m. for the opening of a local office of the country's opposition movement outside Pazigyi village in Sagaing region's Kanbalu township.

The area is about 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Mandalay, the country's second-largest city. 

About half an hour later, a helicopter appeared and fired at the site, said the witness, who asked not to be identified because he feared punishment by the authorities. 

Initial reports put the death toll at around 50, but later tallies reported by independent media raised it to about 100.

It was impossible to independently confirm details of the incident because reporting is restricted by the military government.

About 150 people had gathered for the opening ceremony, and women and 20-30 children were among the dead, another witness said, adding that those killed also included leaders of locally formed anti-government armed groups and other opposition organizations.

The military government's spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, acknowledged in a statement phoned to state television MRTV that the ceremony had been attacked, but accused anti-government forces in the area of carrying out a violent campaign of terror.

He said the People's Defense Forces — the armed wing of the National Unity Government had terrorized residents into supporting them, killing Buddhist monks, teachers, and other people, while the military sought peace and stability.

In response to accusations of abuses, the military government often accuses pro-democracy forces of terrorism. But analysts for the United Nations and non-governmental organizations have gathered credible evidence of large-scale human rights abuses by the army, including the burning of entire villages and displacement of more than a million people, triggering a humanitarian crisis.


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