A powerful bomb exploded and hit a Burmese military train as government troops pounded rebel positions in restive Kachin state, killing two villagers and injuring several others, sources said Thursday.
The bomb exploded at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday at a bridge near the Mohnyin township station, hitting the train from Mandalay city in central Burma, but there were no casualties, according to the sources.
"The explosion was very loud and houses were shaken," said local resident Sai Tun. "After the blast we heard gunfire for two to three minutes. People said the shots were fired in the air."
No one claimed responsibility for the bomb attack, the second in about a week in Kachin state where fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the military has displaced tens of thousands of people along the border with China since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire collapsed.
On Dec. 21, three people were believed injured when a freight train was struck by an explosive and hit with gunfire in the Mohnyin township.
Government troops also on Thursday shelled rebel positions near the de facto headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the KIA's political wing, in Laiza, two days after the military issued an ultimatum to the rebels.
The Burmese military's northern division commander Tun Tun Nang had asked the KIA through peace mediators to stop blocking a vital route taken by government troops to Lajayang near Laiza by Christmas day or face a fierce attack. The rebels ignored the order.
In the shelling Thursday, two Kachin villagers were killed and several others were wounded.
The attacks occurred close to KIO headquarters, including in the Lajayang area, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Laiza, amid warnings over the safety of refugees as troops planned to step up raids on rebel bases.
"There are about 40 shellings each day," said Min Htay, information officer for the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), an armed group fighting alongside ethnic rebels in northern Kachin State.
The villagers were hit by shells while they were working in their watermelon farms, he said.
"One of the men was instantly killed and four to five people were wounded and their condition is serious. All wounded people were sent to Laiza Hospital for treatment. One man died at the hospital," Min Htay said.
Doi Pyi Sa, the head of the KIO Refugees Relief Committee, warned refugees against going out of their camps.
"We asked them to make trenches to avoid being hit if the Burmese Army shelled again or fired from military helicopters."
Sources told Mizzima news agency that nine military helicopters from the government’s Northern Command in Myitkyina had approached the KIO headquarters in Laiza.
The KIA claimed about a week ago that dozens of government troops were killed following fighting in Lajayang, which erupted after the KIA blocked government forces from delivering rations and other supplies to the nearby Lung Rawk post.
Several rounds of talks between the Burmese government and the KIO since November have yielded little outcome, with both sides saying they are defending themselves from the other in the ongoing violence.
Burmese authorities have signed peace agreements with 10 other armed ethnic groups since a new reformist government led by Thein Sein came to power in March last year.
Reported by Ye Htat for RFA's Burmese service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.