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Myanmar rebels claim to shoot down junta helicopter

Myanmar rebels claim to shoot down junta helicopter
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Rebels in Myanmar's northern Kachin province claimed to have shot down a government helicopter on Monday as violence escalates following a February coup by Burmese armed forces.

In a statement to Reuters, a spokesperson for the Kachin Independence Army, an armed separatist group representing a number of ethnic groups in the country's north, said that a junta helicopter was struck by rebel forces near the town of Moemauk and downed. The spokesperson declined to say what weapons were used.

"The military council launched air strikes in that area since around 8 or 9 this morning ... using jet fighters and also fired shots using a helicopter so we shot back at them," spokesman Naw Bu told the news service.

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The rebel claims were not independently verified, and Reuters said a military spokesman did not return a request for comment.

Local media also reported the stabbing death of a local official aligned with the junta in Myanmar's largest city of Yangon.

The violence comes amid months of protests across the country in support of Myanmar's ousted civilian government, which has remained under military detention since the coup three months ago.

Troops aligned with the military have repeatedly opened fire on protesters in multiple towns and cities, killing hundreds while doing little to quell the growing demands of protesters for the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi to be reinstated.

U.S. officials have instituted sanctions on military leaders while calling on Myanmar's military to cease violence against protesters and return Suu Kyi's government to power.