19 dead in fighting between army and rebels — Myanmar military

A suspected rebel figthter takes up position during clashes with the military in Muse

Rights defenders say clashes in northern Myanmar near the China border have ramped up in recent months as the worldwide community focuses on the Rohingya crisis in the west of the country.

Pictures of burned out vehicles and armed men running for cover spread quickly on social media.

"Nineteen (people) were killed in fighting", the military source said, adding that two dozen had been injured.

He called the operation terrorism. He told dpa earlier that just 17 people were killed in the attack.

"Now the Myanmar military is attacking and following them".

A statement posted on the page of Myanmar's commander-in-chief said military columns were in pursuit of the "terrorist insurgents".

More news: Houthi rebels in Yemen fire missiles at Saudi capital

"Fighting took place since 5 am this morning [4 am Indian Standard Time] at three places: two military bases in Muse and one near a bridge on the way to Lashio town", the rebel group's spokesperson Major Mai Aik Kyaw told AFP.

The assault was in retaliation for recent attacks on TNLA outposts and for a military push in Kachin state to the north, where an offensive against the Kachin Independence Army, a TNLA ally, has displaced more than 6,000 people in the past month, he said. "They ran away after attacking the civilian targets", said Zaw Htay.

Responsibility for attack was assumed by group "national liberation army Thang" (TNLA), consisting of fighters, representing one of the ethnic minorities.

Myanmar's patchwork of ethnic groups make up round a third of the population, but the Bamar, or Burmese, have filled the Buddhist-majority country's power structures since independence in 1948.

The country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, made ending Myanmar's multiple civil wars a priority when her National League for Democracy won landslide elections in 2015, ending five decades of military rule.

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