Dozens of people have been killed in military airstrikes that hit a celebratory event in Myanmar’s mountainous Kachin state on Sunday, according to local news outlets and international organizations.
Victims had been attending an event, including a concert, held by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to mark the 62nd anniversary of the group’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization, according to Reuters, citing KIA spokesperson Naw Bu.
Reuters and local news outlet The Irrawaddy reported at least 50 people were killed.
CNN cannot independently verify the number of reported deaths and has reached out to the military for comment.
Kachin Alliance, a Kachin community organization based in Washington, DC, said Kachin artists, local elders, and KIO leaders were among those killed.
“In the aftermath of the massacre, families were scrambling to obtain news about their loved ones due to a prolonged internet blackout in Hpakant,” the statement said. “We are also concerned to learn the report of blocking of medical access to victims of massacre.”
Myanmar has been wracked by conflict since the military junta seized power in a coup last February. Rights groups and observers say since then, freedoms and rights in the country have deteriorated; state executions have returned and the number of documented violent attacks by the army on schools has surged.
Numerous armed rebel groups have emerged, while millions of others continue resisting the junta’s rule through strikes, boycotts and other forms of civil disobedience.
Myanmar’s shadow government, the National Unity Government – a group of ousted lawmakers, coup opponents and ethnic minority group representatives – condemned the attack in a statement on Monday, saying the military had “deliberately committed another mass killing.”
The attack “clearly violates international laws as the provisions of the Geneva Conventions,” it said in the statement, urging the international community and United Nations to “take effective actions urgently.”
The NUG operates undercover or through members abroad, seeking to gain recognition as the legitimate government of Myanmar.
The attack on Sunday drew international condemnation, with the United Nations saying it was concerned over reports of more than 100 civilians impacted.
“While the UN continues to verify the details of this attack, 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 on Monday.
It added that the military’s “excessive and disproportionate” use of force against unarmed civilians was “unacceptable,” and called on those responsible to be held to account.
The ambassadors of Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States also issued a joint statement condemning the strike on Monday.
“This attack underscores the military regime’s responsibility for crisis and instability in Myanmar and the region and its disregard for its obligation to protect civilians and respect the principles and rules of international humanitarian law,” the joint statement read.
Non-profit organization Amnesty International said in a statement the military’s actions – including executing pro-democracy activists, jailing journalists and targeting civilians – have been allowed to continue “in the face of an ineffective international response.”
“As officials and leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) prepare to host high-level meetings in the coming weeks, this attack highlights the need to overhaul the approach to the crisis in Myanmar,” the statement said, urging ASEAN leaders to take action when they meet for their annual summit in November.