YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Ethnic Kachin rebels in Myanmar accused government troops of launching two artillery attacks Sunday against the city that serves as their headquarters, but no casualties or significant damage were reported.
Army forces based at a nearby outpost fired at least seven 105mm shells at the northern city of Laiza, four rounds in the morning and three more before dusk, rebel spokesman La Nan told The Associated Press.
A senior government official denied the accusation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media about the issue.
Fighting has wracked northern Myanmar since a cease-fire that held for nearly two decades broke down in June 2011 after rebels refused to abandon a strategic base near a hydropower plant that is a joint venture with a Chinese company. The conflict has forced around 100,000 Kachin from their homes since then, and many are in camps near Laiza, which is held by the rebels and located near the Chinese border.
Fighting between the two sides appears to have intensified in recent weeks, with the government pounding rebel positions with helicopter gunships and fighter jets.
La Nan, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army, said it was the second artillery attack on Laiza since Dec. 19.
Another rebel official, who declined to be identified because he is not a spokesman for the insurgents, said the shells fired Sunday morning fell near several homes that were hit by shrapnel but not significantly damaged. Rebel forces did not return fire, he said.
Tension with ethnic minorities fighting for greater autonomy in Myanmar is considered one of the biggest major long-term challenges for reformist President Thein Sein, who inherited power in 2011 from the army, which ruled for almost half a century.