Arakan Army Close to ‘defeating’ Myanmar Junta battalion

Published : 02 Mar 2024 09:42 PM

The Arakan Army (AA) says it is close to seizing the Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 550 headquarters in Ponnagyun town near the Rakhine State capital, Sittwe.

Ponnagyun is on the Yangon-Sittwe road about 30km north of Sittwe, which the regime is fortifying. The AA has been attacking Ponnagyun since February 23. On Wednesday, the AA said it blocked reinforcements from the state capital and destroyed two armored vehicles near Amyint Kyun village in Sittwe Township.

The AA said it intensified its attack against the LIB 550 on Thursday and the junta responded with heavy airstrikes and shelling.

“The entire battalion headquarters is within our reach,” the AA said on Friday.

Last Thursday the AA seized Ponnagyun Township police station near the LIB 550 headquarters in the town and 23 police officers defected to the rebel army.

An AA video shows a police inspector saying that they defected because they were given no supplies and prevented from taking leave or transferring. Last month the AA told the Sittwe Military Command to surrender or face defeat. Over half of the Sittwe’s residents, including many junta administrators, have reportedly left the city.

The AA recently seized the whole of Pauktaw Township near Sittwe.

Rakhine media reported that the junta is fortifying the capital by deploying at government offices and in people’s houses.

On Thursday, a naval base in Sittwe shelled a crowded bazaar at a harbor near Korea Seik Kan, killing 12 civilians and injuring almost 80 others, the AA said.

The junta is also shelling civilian targets in Sittwe in advance of the expected attack on the city by the AA.

On Wednesday, the AA said it clashed with around 80 troops on the Kyein Chaung-Yan Aung Pyin road in the north of Maungdaw Township, seizing weapons and ammunition and finding seven dead soldiers.

The Irrawaddy could not independently verify the reports.

AA troops chased and attacked the retreating junta soldiers, it said.

The AA is a member of the Brotherhood Alliance, which launched Operation 1027 across northern Shan State on October 27 last year, seizing around 20 towns and vital trade routes with China.

The operation was halted in early January after the alliance agreed to a Chinese-brokered ceasefire with the regime.

The AA widened the operation to Rakhine State on November 13 and has seized more than 170 junta strongholds and nine towns in Rakhine State and neighboring Chin State.