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19 dead in fighting between Myanmar army, rebels

19 dead in fighting between Myanmar army, rebels

At least 19 people were killed early on Saturday by ethnic insurgents in Myanmar in a major attack near the main border with China, a government spokesman said.

Suu Kyi managed to bring two ethnic groups into a ceasefire accord in February, adding to eight others who had signed the deal before she took office.

The conflict, including in the northern-most state of Kachin, has escalated over the past month as the global focus remains on the Rohingya crisis in the west of the country.

The army has been separately accused of systematic human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the western state of Rakhine, forcing more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh since last August. The sound of automatic gunfire filled the air as ambulances picked up the wounded.

Nan Mwe Phown, a Red Cross member who was at a hospital in Muse, said the dead included 13 male civilians and two women, one of whom was pregnant, as well as several police officers.

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He called the operation "terrorism".

He said the attack was in retaliation for recent attacks on TNLA outposts and for a military offensive against its ally - the Kachin Independence Army - in Kachin state, which occupies the southern tip of the Himalayas. "They ran away after attacking the civilian targets", said Zaw Htay. "This is a terrorist attack".

"Fighting took place since 5am this morning at three places: two military bases in Muse and one near a bridge on the way to Lashio town", TNLA spokesman Maj Mai Aik Kyaw said, citing two of the towns in northern Shan where the clashes occurred.

Myanmar's military frequently clashes with several groups, which say they are fighting for greater autonomy for ethnic minorities in the area, through which much of Myanmar's foreign trade flows.