35 Killed, Including Children and 2 Humanitarian Workers, in Myanmar Christmas Eve Attack

At least 35 people, including children, were killed in Myanmar on December 24 in an attack humanitarian group Save the Children believed to be carried out by the country's military.

Government forces appeared to have shot three vehicles in Kayah state as they were leaving an area where fighting was occurring. Photos circulating on social media show burnt bodies in scorched vehicles, one of them still burning.

Save the Children said two of its employees were killed in the attack as they were leaving a nearby community where they had provided humanitarian aid.

An unidentified villager who said he was there told the Associated Press that the victims were fleeing after a battle between resistance fighters and the Myanmar military near Koi Ngan village.

In the currently unverified account, the villager said the people were shot after being arrested by government troops.

Save the Children's chief executive, Inger Ashing, called the attack "intolerable" and "senseless" in a statement.

"This is not an isolated event," Ashing said. "The people of Myanmar continue to be targeted with increasing violence and these events demand an immediate response."

In the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper, the government claimed seven "suspicious" vehicles belonging to the Karenni National Progressive Party attacked the government's forces. The report added that the vehicles were destroyed in a fire.

Myanmar, Kayah state, fire
Myanmar government troops rounded up villagers, some believed to be women and children, fatally shot more than 35 and set the bodies on fire, a witness and other reports said Saturday. Above, in this photo provided by the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, smokes and flames billow from vehicles in Hpruso township, Kayah state, Myanmar, on December 24, 2021. KNDF via AP

The army seized power in February, ousting the elected government and arresting top officials. Its action was met by nonviolent nationwide demonstrations, which security forces quashed with deadly force, killing nearly 1,400 civilians, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Peaceful protests have continued, but an armed resistance has also grown amid the severe crackdown, to the point that U.N. experts have warned the country could be sliding into civil war.

Save the Children called on the U.N. Security Council to respond to the army violence with steps including an arms embargo. It also urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to press for the implementation of an agreement reached in April with Myanmar's leader calling for the cessation of violence in the country and mediation by an ASEAN special envoy.

On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said it was appalled by the "barbaric attack in Kayah state that killed at least 35 civilians, including women and children."

"We will continue to press for accountability for the perpetrators of the ongoing campaign of violence against the people of Burma," it said, using Myanmar's previous name.

Earlier this month, government troops were also accused of rounding up villagers, some believed to be children, tying them up and slaughtering them. An opposition leader, Dr. Sasa, who uses only one name, said the civilians were burned alive.

Save the Children said it has been working in Myanmar since 1995, providing healthcare, food, education and child protection services. It said it has suspended operations in the region of the attack.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Myanmar, Kayah state, vehicle
Humanitarian group Save the Children said two of its employees were among at least 35 people killed on Christmas Eve in Myanmar. Above, in this photo provided by the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, vehicles smolder in Hpruso township, Kayah state, Myanmar, on December 24, 2021. KNDF via AP