Dozens of people have been killed by military government airstrikes while celebrating at a concert in Myanmar, rebel groups have claimed.
Ethnic Kachin groups have said the strikes by Myanmar’s military have killed more than 60 people, including singers and musicians, according to the Associated Press.
Hundreds of people had been attending an anniversary celebration of the minority group’s main political organisation, Kachin Independence (KIO), in a remote mountain area around 600 miles from the country’s biggest city, Yangon.
The KIO is the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army, which controls the area and has clashed with the Myanmar military for decades.
The Kachin Artists Association claimed between 300 and 500 people were at the event, and a Kachin singer and keyboard player were among the dead.
Those killed also included Kachin officers and soldiers, and at least 10 Kachin military and business VIPs sitting in front of the stage, it said.
A local politician, who wouldn’t give his name for safety reasons, said “60 people were killed in the attack” – but this figure has not been independently verified.
As it stands, the number of casualties at Sunday night’s celebration appear to be the most in a single air attack since the military seized power in February.
‘Ruthless disregard for civilian lives’
The United Nations said it was “deeply concerned” and “saddened” by the reports, adding that initial estimations suggest more than 100 civilians may have been affected.
It said the attack appears to be an “excessive and disproportionate use of force by security forces against unarmed civilians”.
“We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of all those who were killed or injured. The UN calls for those injured to be availed urgent medical treatment, as needed,” it said in a statement.
Amnesty International said the “deadly” airstrikes appeared to fit a “pattern of unlawful aerial attacks” by the military.
“The military has shown ruthless disregard for civilian lives in its escalating campaign against opponents,” said the organisation’s deputy regional director, Hana Young.
“It is difficult to believe the military did not know of a significant civilian presence at the site of this attack. The military must immediately grant access to medics and humanitarian assistance to those affected by these airstrikes and other civilians in need.”
The incident comes just three days before Southeast Asian foreign ministers are due to hold a meeting in Indonesia to discuss growing violence in the country.
Myanmar has been wracked for decades by rebellions from ethnic minorities seeking autonomy, but anti-government resistance increased markedly nationwide after an armed pro-democracy movement was formed in opposition to last year’s military takeover.
Since the coup against the government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February last year, the military has increasingly relied on air power as it struggles to retain control of the country.