Myanmar Military accused of killing 17 during Sunday church service

NAYPIYDAW, Myanmar — Amnesty International has called for an investigation into Myanmar’s military for war crimes in connection with an airstrike last month that killed 17 villagers, including nine children, as they attended a Sunday church service.

According to Amnesty, photo and video analysis, as well as interviews with witnesses, indicate that the Myanmar air force dropped bombs on three locations near the St Peter Baptist Church in Kanan village on January 7 morning.

The village is in the Sagaing region, near Myanmar’s border with India.
At least twenty people were injured.

The damage is "consistent with air strikes," the rights organization said in a statement on Thursday. "The combined photo and video evidence indicates at least three impact locations, with craters consistent with aircraft bombs of approximately 250kg each."

The Myanmar military has previously denied responsibility for the attack, claiming that no aircraft were flying in the area at the time.

However, Amnesty International stated that a review of video footage taken during the strikes revealed the "distinctive swept-wing silhouette of an A-5 fighter jet flying over the village," noting that the China-made aircraft is only flown by military personnel. Furthermore, satellite imagery from the Tada-U airbase near Mandalay showed active A-5 operations on the airfield. At the same time, plane spotters reported an A-5 takeoff, flight, and landing, all consistent with that morning’s attack on Kanan.

"The Myanmar military’s deadly attacks on civilians show no signs of stopping," said Matt Wells, director of Amnesty International’s crisis response program. "These attacks must be investigated as war crimes, and the United Nations Security Council should refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. The perpetrators of these international crimes must face justice."

Myanmar was plunged into crisis three years ago when the generals overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, sparking mass protests that turned into armed resistance after the military responded with brutal force.

Since the coup, at least 4,485 civilians have been killed, and violence has escalated.