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Singers and soldiers among over 60 killed at celebration in Myanmar military air attack, ethnic group says

Myanmar crisis a year after coup
Marking one year since military's bloody takeover of Myanmar 02:27

Air strikes by Myanmar's military killed more than 60 people, including singers and musicians, attending an anniversary celebration of the Kachin ethnic minority's main political organization, members of the group and a rescue worker said Monday.

The reported attack comes three days before Southeast Asian foreign ministers are to hold a special meeting in Indonesia to discuss widening violence in Myanmar.

The number of casualties at Sunday night's celebration by the Kachin Independence Organization in the northern state of Kachin appeared to be the most in a single air attack since the military seized power in February last year from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

It was impossible to independently confirm details of the incident, though media sympathetic to the Kachin posted videos showing what was said to be the attack's aftermath, with splintered and flattened wooden structures. There was no immediate comment from the military or government media.

Myanmar has been wracked for decades by rebellions by ethnic minorities seeking autonomy, but anti-government resistance increased markedly nationwide with the formation of an armed pro-democracy movement opposing last year's military takeover.

Sunday's celebration of the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Kachin Independence Organization was held at a base also used for military training by the Kachin Independence Army, the KIO's armed wing. It is located near Aung Bar Lay village in Hpakant township, a remote mountainous area 600 miles north of Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon.

A spokesperson for the Kachin Artists Association told The Associated Press by phone that military aircraft dropped four bombs on the celebration at about 8 p.m., according to members of the group who were there. Between 300 and 500 people were in attendance and a Kachin singer and keyboard player were among the dead, said the spokesperson, who asked not to be identified because he feared punishment by the authorities.

Those killed also included Kachin officers and soldiers, musicians and jade mining business owners and other civilians, he said. They also included at least 10 Kachin military and business VIPs sitting in front of the stage, and cooks working backstage, he added.

The Kachin News Group, a media outlet sympathetic to the KIO, reported the same number of casualties and said government security forces blocked the wounded from being treated at hospitals in nearby towns.

In this Feb. 13, 2012, file photo, recruits of the Kachin Independence Army, one of the country's largest armed ethnic groups, receive training at a military camp near Laiza, the area controlled by the Kachin in northern Myanmar. Vincent Yu / AP
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