LAJAYANG, BURMA — Heavy fighting between government troops and forces loyal to the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) broke out before dawn this morning at Lajayang near the KIO's Laiza headquarters.
According to an officer from the KIO’s armed-wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), more than 50 government soldiers were dead by noon. At least one KIA soldier was also killed, the officer said.
Clashes took place between Lajayang and Nalung, two villages located on the Myitkyina to Manmaw (Bhamo) road. The fighting reportedly started when a large group of government troops attempted to push through to Lung Rawk post near Lajayang as part of an aborted rations delivery.
An estimated 100 Burmese soldiers are trapped at Lung Rawk post, according to the KIA officer. Several recent attempts by the army to resupply the strategic post, located less than 5 miles from the KIO's headquarters have been repeatedly blocked by KIA attacks.
Government forces and the KIA fired artillery shells for much of the morning, according eyewitness living in the area. The government side was aided by Russian made helicopters armed with heavy guns.
After several hours of fighting one of the helicopters appeared to have been damaged by KIA fire and was seen flying back towards Myitkyina with smoke coming from it, said the KIA officer. After the damaged helicopter departed three more government helicopter gunships arrived and continued the attack on KIA targets in Lajayang.
Most of the fighting stopped by the afternoon. The bodies of dozens of dead Burma army soldiers are currently being gathered at local Bhuddhist temple in Lajayang, according to an eyewitness who spoke to the Kachin News Group on the condition of anonymity.