Thousands of police carried out a series of raids across much of Germany on Wednesday against suspected far-right extremists who allegedly sought to overthrow the state in an armed coup. Federal prosecutors said some 3,000 officers conducted searches at 130 sites in 11 of Germany’s 16 states against adherents of the so-called Reich Citizens movement. Some members of the grouping reject Germany’s postwar constitution and have called for the overthrow of the government. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann described the raids as an “anti-terrorism operation,” adding that the suspects may have planned an armed attack on institutions of the state. Prosecutors said 22 German citizens were detained on suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization.” Three other people, including a Russian citizen, are suspected of supporting the organization, they said. Weekly Der Spiegel reported that locations searched include the barracks of Germany’s special forces unit KSK in the southwestern town of Calw. The unit has in the past been scrutinized over alleged far-right involvement by some soldiers. Read: Germany commits EUR 15 million to pay poor rural people for their work to preserve ecosystems Federal prosecutors declined to confirm or deny that the barracks was searched. Along with detentions in Germany, prosecutors said that one person was detained in the Austrian town of Kitzbuehel and another in the Italian city of Perugia. Prosecutors said those detained are alleged to last year have formed a “terrorist organization with the goal of overturning the existing state order in Germany and replace it with their own form of state, which was already in the course of being founded.” The suspects were aware that their aim could only be achieved by military means and with force, prosecutors said. They are alleged to have believed in a “conglomerate of conspiracy theories consisting of narratives from the so-called Reich Citizens as well as QAnon ideology,” according to a statement by prosecutors. They added that members of the group also believe Germany is ruled by a so-called ‘deep state;’ similar baseless claims about the United States were made by former President Donald Trump. Prosecutors identified the suspected ringleaders as Heinrich XIII P. R. and Ruediger v. P., in line with German privacy rules. Der Spiegel reported that the former was a well-known 71-year-old member of a minor German noble family, while the latter was a 69-year-old former paratrooper. Read: Germany postpones decision on mandatory speed limits Federal prosecutors said Heinrich XIII P. R., whom the group planned to install as Germany’s new leader, had contacted Russian officials with the aim of negotiating a new order in the country once the German government was overthrown. He was allegedly assisted in this by a Russian woman, Vitalia B. “According to current investigations there is no indication however that the persons contacted responded positively to his request,” prosecutors said. A further person detained by police Wednesday was identified by prosecutors as Birgit M.-W. Der Spiegel reported that the woman is a judge and former lawmaker with the far-right Alternative for Germany party. The party, known by its German acronym AfD, has increasingly come under scrutiny by German security services due to its ties with extremists.
Sudan’s leading general lifted a state of emergency Sunday that was imposed in the country following the October coup he led. The decision by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, came hours after the Security and Defense Council, Sudan’s highest body that decides on security matters, recommended an end to the state of emergency and the release of all detainees. Also read: Aid group says tribal violence kills 8 in Sudan’s Darfur The recommendations are meant to facilitate dialogue between the military and the pro-democracy movement, the defense minister, Maj. Gen. Yassin Ibrahim Yassin, said in a video statement. They come as the country faces protests against military rule and an unknown number of activists and former officials remain in detention. Earlier Sunday, the U.N. envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, called for the country’s leaders to lift the state of emergency. He decried the killing of two people in a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters who once again took to the streets of the capital to denounce the Oct. 25 coup. “Once again: It is time for the violence to stop,” said Perthes on Twitter. Hundreds of people marched Saturday in Khartoum, where security forces violently dispersed the crowds and chased them in the streets, according to activists. The two were killed during protests in Khartoum’s Kalakla neighborhood. One was shot by security forces and the other suffocated after inhaling tear gas, said the Sudan Doctors Committee, which is part of the pro-democracy movement. Sudan has been plunged into turmoil since the military takeover upended its short-lived transition to democracy after three decades of repressive rule by former strongman Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir and his Islamist-backed government were removed by the military in a popular uprising in April 2019. Saturday’s protests were part of relentless demonstrations in the past seven months calling for the military to hand over power to civilians. At least 98 people have been killed and over 4,300 wounded in the government crackdown on anti-coup protests since October, according to the medical group. Hundreds of activists and officials in the disposed government were also detained following the coup, many were later released under pressure from the U.N. and other western governments. The protesters demand the removal of the military from power. The generals, however, have said they will only hand over power to an elected administration. They say elections will take place in July 2023 as planned in a constitutional document governing the transition period. Also read:UN envoy: Sudan could face economic and security collapse The U.N., the African Union and the eight-nation east African regional group called the Intergovernmental Authority in Development have been leading concerted efforts to bridge the gap between the two sides and find a way out of the impasse. Meanwhile, the trial of four activists accused of killing a senior police officer during a protest earlier this year began Sunday amid tight security outside the Judicial and Legal Science Institute in Khartoum. Dozens of protesters gathered in the area in a show of support for the defendants. The four were detained in raids after police Col. Ali Hamad was stabbed to death as security forces dispersed protesters on Jan. 13. Their defense lawyers deny the allegations. The court’s judges in Sunday’s proceedings ordered the defendants be medically examined after their lawyers claimed they were tortured and mistreated in police detention. The trial resumes June 12.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the former president of Mali who took office in a landmark election held after a destabilizing coup only to be ousted in another military takeover nearly seven years later, has died. He was 76. Keita, known to Malians by his initials IBK, had been in declining health since his forced resignation in August 2020, and had sought medical treatment in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, shortly after his release from junta custody. The transitional government, which is still led by the man who ousted Keita from power 18 months ago, issued a statement saying that his death Sunday in Bamako followed “a long illness.” Read:Nigeria attacks: Hundreds reported killed as bandits target villages “The government of the Republic of Mali and the Malian people salute the memory of the late great,” the statement said, adding that funeral details would come later. The news comes as the turbulent West African nation faces a deepening political crisis, with coup leader Col. Assimi Goita having no immediate plans for a return to democracy as initially promised. Keita won Mali's historic 2013 presidential election held after an earlier coup in 2012 and a subsequent French-led military intervention the following year to oust Islamic extremists from power in the country's north. But only seven years later, Keita himself was ousted by another military takeover following months of public demonstrations against his presidency. Keita had three years left in his final term when mutinous soldiers detained him at his residence in August 2020 after firing shots outside the house. Hours later, he appeared in a midnight broadcast on state television, telling Malians he would resign immediately. “I wish no blood to be shed to keep me in power,” Keita said at the time. “I have decided to step down from office.” The country has descended into further chaos since his departure. Goita last year launched a second coup, throwing out the civilian transitional leaders and making himself president. West African regional leaders imposed tough economic sanctions earlier this month after Goita indicated that Mali's next presidential election won't be held until 2026, after initially agreeing to an election by the end of next month. The measures halted commercial flights from most other countries in the regional bloc known as ECOWAS and froze the Malian government's assets in commercial banks. A protest movement against Keita’s presidency in 2020 saw tens of thousands demonstrate in the streets in the months leading up to his overthrow. As discontent with his leadership mounted, Keita had tried to make concessions to his critics, saying he was even open to redoing the vote. But those overtures were swiftly rejected by opposition leaders, who said they wouldn't stop short of Keita’s departure. Support for Keita also tumbled amid criticism of his government’s handling of the Islamic insurgency, which significantly expanded into central Mali during his tenure. A wave of particularly deadly attacks in the north in 2019 prompted the government to close its most vulnerable outposts as part of a reorganization aimed at stemming the losses. Keita signed a peace agreement with the former rebels, but it was never fully implemented, prolonging the instability. In the 2013 election, Keita had emerged from a field of more than two dozen candidates to win Mali’s first democratic election after a 2012 coup — a landslide victory with more than 77% of the vote. He also enjoyed broad support from former colonizer France and other Western allies. In 2018, Keita was reelected to a second term after receiving 67% of the vote. “I will remember him as a cultured man, a great patriot and a committed pan-Africanist,” tweeted Niger's former President Mahamadou Issoufou, who led the neighboring country throughout Keita's presidency as the two nations faced the growing regional threat posed by Islamic extremists. “I lose in him a friend and a comrade.” Read: 17 al-Shabab militants killed in foiled attack in central Somalia Born in 1945, Keita hailed from the town of Koutiala in what is now southern Mali. He studied in Bamako, Dakar, Senegal, and Paris, earning a master’s degree in history with postgraduate studies in politics and international relations before entering politics. His early posts included being ambassador to neighboring Ivory Coast and diplomatic adviser to President Alpha Oumar Konare, who took office in 1992. Keita then served as prime minister from 1994 to 2000, and later as president of the National Assembly from 2002 to 2007. He is survived by his wife, Aminata Maiga Keita, and their four children.
A deal was reached between Sudan's military and civilian leaders to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was deposed in a coup last month, military and government officials said Sunday. The officials also said that government officials and politicians arrested since the Oct. 25 coup will be released as part of the deal between the military and political parties, including the largest Umma Party. Read: Al-Jazeera says bureau chief detained by Sudanese forces Hamdok will lead an independent technocratic Cabinet, the officials said. They said the U.N., the U.S. and others played “crucial roles” in crafting the agreement. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the deal before the official announcement. The coup, more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government, has drawn international criticism. The United States, its allies and the United Nations have condemned the use of excessive force against anti-coup protesters. Sudanese have been taking to the streets in masses since the military takeover, which upended the country’s fragile transition to democracy. The agreement comes just days after doctors said at least 15 people were killed by live fire during anti-coup demonstrations. The military has tightened its grip on power, appointing a new, military-run Sovereign Council. The council is chaired by coup leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan. The Sovereign Council will meet later Sunday before announcing the deal, the officials said. Read: Sudan forces disperse anti-coup protesters, arrest dozens A national initiative formed after the coup that includes political parties and public figures said in a statement that Hamdok would be reinstated and will form a technocratic Cabinet. It said the deal would be signed later Sunday along with a political declaration. It did not elaborate. Mohmmed Youssef al-Mustafa, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association, said there is a deal but the SPA would comment when it is announced officially. The group called on people to take to the streets Sunday to reiterate their demands for civilian democratic rule and denounce any partnership with the military.
Sudan’s military seized power Monday, dissolving the transitional government hours after troops arrested the prime minister, and thousands flooded the streets to protest the coup that threatened the country’s shaky progress toward democracy. Security forces opened fire on some of them, and three protesters were killed, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee, which also said 80 people were wounded. The takeover, which drew condemnation from the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, comes more than two years after protesters forced the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and just weeks before the military was supposed to hand the leadership of the council that runs the country over to civilians. The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency closed meeting on the Sudan coup late Tuesday afternoon. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Norway and Estonia requested the emergency consultations. Read:PM, officials detained, internet down in apparent Sudan coup After the early morning arrests of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other senior officials, thousands demonstrated in the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman. They blocked streets and set fire to tires as security forces used tear gas to disperse them. As plumes of smoke rose, protesters could be heard chanting, “The people are stronger, stronger!” and “Retreat is not an option!” Social media video showed crowds crossing bridges over the Nile to the center of the capital. The U.S. Embassy warned that troops were blocking parts of the city and urged the military “to immediately cease violence.” Pro-democracy activist Dura Gambo said paramilitary forces chased protesters through some Khartoum neighborhoods. Records from a Khartoum hospital obtained by The Associated Press showed some people admitted with gunshot wounds. The head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, announced on national TV that he was dissolving the government and the Sovereign Council, a joint military and civilian body created soon after al-Bashir’s ouster to run the country. Burhan said quarrels among political factions prompted the military intervention. Tensions have been rising for weeks over the course and the pace of the transition to democracy in Sudan, a nation in Africa linked by language and culture to the Arab world. The general declared a state of emergency and said the military will appoint a technocratic government to lead the country to elections, set for July 2023. But he made clear the military will remain in charge. “The Armed Forces will continue completing the democratic transition until the handover of the country’s leadership to a civilian, elected government,” he said. He added that the constitution would be rewritten and a legislative body would be formed with the participation of “young men and women who made this revolution.” The Information Ministry, still loyal to the dissolved government, called his speech an “announcement of a seizure of power by military coup.” As darkness fell in Khartoum, barricades were still burning and occasional gunshots could be heard, said Volker Perthes, the U.N. special envoy for Sudan, at a briefing in New York. President Joe Biden was briefed on Sudan in the morning, said White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre. She added that the U.S. was “deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover" and called for the immediate release of the prime minister and other officials. “The actions today are in stark opposition to the will of the Sudanese people and their aspirations for peace, liberty and justice,” Jean-Pierre said. The Biden administration is suspending $700 million in emergency economic aid to Sudan that had been allocated to help the transition, said State Department spokesman Ned Price. He called it a “pause,” and urged the civilian-led government be immediately restored. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly condemns the ongoing military coup d’état in Khartoum and all actions that could jeopardize Sudan’s political transition and stability,” said his spokesman, spokesman Stéphane Dujarric. Guterres also called for the release of the government officials, the spokesman said, as did the African Union. EU foreign affairs chief Joseph Borrell tweeted that he was following the events with the “utmost concern.” Read: 10 killed in South Sudan plane crash
Sudan's interim prime minister and a number of senior government officials were arrested Monday, the information ministry said, describing the actions as a military coup. The internet in the country was largely cut off and military forces closed bridges, according to the ministry’s Facebook page. It said the whereabouts of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok were not immediately known. Meanwhile, the country’s state news channel played patriotic traditional music and scenes of the Nile river. The country's main pro-democracy group and the largest political party urged people in separate appeals to take to the streets to counter the apparent military coup. Thousands of people flooded the streets of Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman. Footage shared online appeared to show protesters blocking streets and setting fire to tires as security forces used tear gas to disperse them. A takeover by the military would be a major setback for Sudan, which has grappled with a transition to democracy since long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was toppled by mass protests two years ago. Read: 10 killed in South Sudan plane crash Early Monday, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said Washington was “deeply alarmed” by reports of the military takeover. Monday's arrests come after weeks of rising tensions between Sudan’s civilian and military leaders. A failed coup attempt in September fractured the country along old lines, pitting more-conservative Islamists who want a military government against those who toppled al-Bashir in protests. In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations. The information ministry said on its Facebook page that Hamdok was detained and taken to an undisclosed location. It said a number of officials were also detained and their whereabouts were not known. Earlier Monday, two officials confirmed that at least five government figures were the detained. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The officials said the detained government members include Industry Minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, Information Minister Hamza Baloul, and Mohammed al-Fiky Suliman, member of the country's ruling transitional body, known as The Sovereign Council, and Faisal Mohammed Saleh, a media adviser to Hamdok. Ayman Khalid, governor of the state containing the capital, Khartoum, was also arrested, according to the official Facebook page of his office. Under Hamdok and the transitional council, Sudan has slowly emerged from years of international pariah status in which it existed under al-Bashir. The country was removed from the United States' state supporter of terror list in 2020, opening the door for badly needed international loans and investment. But the country's economy has struggled with the shock of a number economic reforms called for by international lending institutions. There have been previous military coups in Sudan since it gained its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. Al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup that removed the country’s last elected government. Read:Death toll from violence in Sudan's West Darfur rises to 83 The arrests followed meetings by Feltman, the special U.S. envoy, with Sudanese military and civilian leaders Saturday and Sunday in efforts to resolve the dispute. Sudan's state news website highlighted the meetings with military officials. The Sudanese Communist Party called on workers to go on strike and mass civil disobedience after what it described as a “full military coup” orchestrated by the Sovereign Council's head Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan. NetBlocks, a group which tracks disruptions across the internet, said it had seen a “significant disruption” to both fixed-line and mobile internet connections across Sudan with multiple providers early Monday. “Metrics corroborate user reports network disruptions appearing consistent with an internet shutdown,” the advocacy group said. “The disruption is likely to limit the free flow of information online and news coverage of incidents on the ground.”
The clandestine clinic was under fire, and the medics inside were in tears. Hidden away in a Myanmar monastery, this safe haven had sprung up for those injured while protesting the military’s overthrow of the government. But now security forces had discovered its location. A bullet struck a young man in the throat as he defended the door, and the medical staff tried frantically to stop the hemorrhaging. The floor was slick with blood. In Myanmar, the military has declared war on health care — and on doctors themselves, who were early and fierce opponents of the takeover in February. Security forces are arresting, attacking and killing medical workers, dubbing them enemies of the state. With medics driven underground amid a global pandemic, the country’s already fragile healthcare system is crumbling. “The junta is purposely targeting the whole healthcare system as a weapon of war,” says one Yangon doctor on the run for months, whose colleagues at an underground clinic were arrested during a raid. “We believe that treating patients, doing our humanitarian job, is a moral job….I didn’t think that it would be accused as a crime.”Inside the clinic that day, the young man shot in the throat was fading. His sister wailed. A minute later, he was dead. One of the clinic’s medical students, whose name like those of several other medics has been withheld to protect her from retaliation, began to sweat and cry. She had never seen anyone shot. Now she too was at risk. Two protesters smashed the glass out of a window so the medics could escape. “We are so sorry,” the nurses told their patients. READ: Washington announces further sanctions against Myanmar army personnel and enablers One doctor stayed behind to finish suturing the patients’ wounds. The others jumped through the window and hid in a nearby apartment complex for hours. Some were so terrified that they never returned home. “I cry every day from that day,” the medical student says. “I cannot sleep. I cannot eat well.” “That was a terrible day.”The suffering caused by the military’s takeover of this nation of 54 million has been relentless. Security forces have killed at least 890 people, including a 6-year-old girl they shot in the stomach, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors arrests and deaths in Myanmar. Around 5,100 people are in detention and thousands have been forcibly disappeared. The military, known as the Tatmadaw, and police have returned mutilated corpses to families as tools of terror. Amid all the atrocities, the military’s attacks on medics, one of the most revered professions in Myanmar, have sparked particular outrage. Myanmar is now one of the most dangerous places on earth for healthcare workers, with 240 attacks this year -- nearly half of the 508 globally tracked by the World Health Organization. That’s by far the highest of any country. “This is a group of folks who are standing up for what’s right and standing up against decades of human rights abuses in Myanmar,” says Raha Wala, advocacy director of the U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights. “The Tatmadaw is hell-bent on using any means necessary to quash their fundamental rights and freedoms.” The military has issued arrest warrants for 400 doctors and 180 nurses, with photos of their faces plastered all over state media like “Wanted” posters. They are charged with supporting and taking part in the “civil disobedience” movement. At least 157 healthcare workers have been arrested, 32 wounded and 12 killed since Feb. 1, according to Insecurity Insight, which analyzes conflicts around the globe. In recent weeks, arrest warrants have increasingly been issued for nurses. Myanmar’s medics and their advocates argue that these assaults violate international law, which makes it illegal to attack health workers and patients or deny them care based on their political affiliations. In 2016, after similar attacks in Syria, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution demanding that medics be granted safe passage by all parties in a war. “In other country’s protests, the medics are safe. They are exempt. Here, there are no exemptions,” says Dr. Nay Lin Tun, a general practitioner who has been on the run since February, and now provides care covertly. Medics are targeted by the military because they are not only highly respected but also well-organized, with a strong network of unions and professional groups. In 2015, doctors pinned black ribbons to their uniforms to protest the appointment of military personnel to the Ministry of Health. Their Facebook page quickly gained thousands of followers, and the military appointments stopped. This time, the protest by medics started days after the military ousted democratically elected leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, from power. From remote towns in the northern mountains to the main city of Yangon, they walked off their jobs on military-owned facilities, pinning red ribbons to their clothes.The response from the military was fierce, with security forces beating medical workers and stealing supplies. Security forces have occupied at least 51 hospitals since the takeover, according to Insecurity Insight, Physicians for Human Rights and the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights. On March 28, during a strike in the city of Monywa, a nurse was fatally shot in the head, according to AAPP. On May 8, hundreds of miles away in northern Kachin state, a doctor was arrested, tied up and also fatally shot in the head while passing a military base. Rather than acknowledging its attacks on medical workers, the military is instead accusing them of genocide for not treating patients — despite itself being accused of genocide against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. “They are killing people in cold blood. If this is not genocide, what shall I call it?” military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said during an April 9 press conference broadcast live on national television. A military spokesperson responded to written questions submitted by The Associated Press only by sending an article that blamed supposed election fraud for the country’s problems. Suu Kyi’s party won the November election in a landslide, and independent poll watchers have largely found it free of significant issues. The crackdown on health care is hitting an already vulnerable system at a critical time. Even before the takeover, Myanmar had just 6.7 physicians per 10,000 people in 2018 — significantly lower than the global average of 15.6 in 2017, according to the World Bank. Now, testing for COVID-19 has plummeted, and the vaccination program has stalled, with its former head, Dr. Htar Htar Lin, arrested and charged with high treason in June. Even if vaccines are available, people are afraid of being arrested just by going to the hospital, one medic told the AP. READ: UK announces sanctions on companies linked to Myanmar’s military regime Given the military’s crackdown on information, there are no independent figures on current COVID cases and deaths. The state media has reported almost 160,000 positive cases and 3,347 deaths. But experts say that is an undercount, and there are clear signs another COVID surge is happening in the country. “What we’re seeing is really a human rights emergency that is turning into a public health disaster,” says Jennifer Leigh, an epidemiologist and Myanmar researcher for Physicians for Human Rights. “We’re definitely seeing echoes of what happened in Syria, where health workers and the health facility was systematically targeted.” The crackdown has forced doctors to make excruciating choices and find new ways to reach patients. As an emergency physician at a government hospital, Dr. Zaw had been on the frontlines of the fight against COVID. In January, the first vaccines arrived from India, giving the exhausted doctor a rush of hope. But after months of fighting a virus, she found herself instead fighting for democracy. Going on strike was an agonizing decision; as a doctor, she believed in caring for those in need. However, doing so meant working for and legitimizing the generals who overthrew her government. The solution was providing care in secret, says Zaw, whom the AP is identifying by a partial name to protect her from retaliation. In February, she helped set up a clinic tucked away in another monastery in another part of Myanmar, with supplies donated from a COVID facility where she had previously volunteered. A generator keeps the equipment running during the frequent power cuts. Select contacts in nearby townships who know the clinic’s location direct the sick and wounded there. Zaw fled the housing the government provides public doctors. She has since moved three times to avoid detection, and sent her family to a safehouse. Now, she lives above the clinic, sleeping alongside seven other doctors and nurses on mats separated only by curtains. It has become too risky to leave the compound; she knows the soldiers are hunting for the clinic, and for her. “Because of them, our hopes, our dreams, are hopeless,” she says. “Some of the medical students and some of our doctors are dying because of them.” Sometimes, Zaw and her colleagues are tipped off by informants the night before a raid, giving them time to dismantle the clinic and hide the equipment. But on one recent day, they only had time to hide themselves. There was almost no warning, just the frantic shouts from the monks that the soldiers were already at the gate. Zaw raced to a nearby building with her colleagues. Moments later, she watched through a window as soldiers stormed her clinic, frightening the patient she had just been treating for hypertension and diabetes. Normally shy and soft-spoken, she fought the urge to run out and hit them. Volunteers told the soldiers that no government doctors were working there. The soldiers eventually left, and Zaw returned to her patient. She knows she was lucky that day, but she intends to keep treating the sick — even if her efforts end in her death. “All people have to die one day,” Zaw says. “So I’m prepared.” While some medics have gone underground, others have fled from the cities to the border areas. Before the military takeover, it was difficult to persuade government doctors from the cities to work in states like Kachin, where ethnic armed groups have long battled the Tatmadaw, according to the founder of an underground clinic and medical training organization there. Since February, however, government doctors have come to Kachin to provide care and train others in emergency medicine, says the founder, who spoke anonymously to avoid retaliation. The group now has between 20 and 30 trainers. Their clinic shifts locations constantly, sometimes operating out of a tent. The medics treat the injured from landmines, homemade bombs and battles with security forces. READ: Resident: Junta burns Myanmar village in escalating violence The fear of being discovered is intense; the founder frets over a new car parked in front of his house and new faces in the neighborhood. His wife packed emergency bags filled with clothing, supplies and cash. Security forces recently abducted someone in front of one medic’s home, he says, and were probably looking for the medic. “Every day since I started doing this, I know my life is in danger,” he says.The war on medics is already taking a severe toll on those who need health care, especially the young. Under a tarp in the jungle pounded by relentless rain, 20-year-old Naing Li stared helplessly at her firstborn child, just five days old. The newborn’s breathing had grown labored, and his tiny body felt like it was on fire. She could do nothing. Her husband was back in their village in western Myanmar, near the embattled town of Mindat, fighting advancing soldiers. And there were no medics around to help — not here in the jungle where she had fled with her baby, and not in their village either. The baby is among about 600,000 newborns who aren’t receiving essential care, putting them at risk of illness, disability and death, according to UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency. A million children are missing out on routine immunizations. Nearly 5 million are not receiving Vitamin A supplements to prevent infection and blindness, and more than 40,000 are no longer getting treated for malnutrition. At the same time, COVID is spreading rapidly along Myanmar’s porous border with Bangladesh, India and Thailand, alarming health experts. “This has the potential to turn into a very big and very bad public health crisis,” says Alessandra Dentice, UNICEF’s Myanmar representative. Naing Li and her baby had already survived one crisis — a difficult labor at home. They hadn’t been able to go to a hospital in nearby Mindat, where the military launched a bloody assault and declared martial law. The fighting closed the few private clinics that had remained open. Little Mg Htan Naing was healthy when he entered into this chaotic world on May 16, looking like his mother. But five days later, in the jungle, the swaddled infant struggled to breathe. By the next morning, Naing Li was desperate enough to risk returning home for help. When she arrived, however, she found her husband, 23-year-old Naing Htan, struck in the back by shrapnel. The couple could only watch as their son slipped away. At 11 a.m., Mg Htan Naing died in his mother’s arms.Men in Myanmar are not supposed to cry in front of others, but the father could not contain his grief. “I cried out loud in agony even though I am a man,” he says. Even if the couple had found a doctor in time, they likely would have faced the challenge of finding medicine. Healthcare workers interviewed by the AP said soldiers are blocking aid and have taken medical equipment and drugs from clinics during raids. A Mindat resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation, said she and her family stored medicine in preparation before the fighting broke out. But with water supplies cut and no way to properly clean themselves, they worry about diseases. “It is very difficult here,” she says. “If we get sick, we cannot go to the clinic. We have to take whatever medicine we have at home.” The collapse of the public hospital system has also put pressure on aid groups. In Shan and Kachin states, Médecins Sans Frontières has taken on more than 3,045 patients who would otherwise have been treated under the government’s AIDS program. The clinics have been forced to cut the life-saving HIV/AIDS medicine they distribute to patients from three-month supplies to one. Many aid groups have shut down or drastically scaled back operations. After the military takeover, aid groups stopped coming to a camp for 1,000 displaced people in Kachin state, a women’s advocate says. A weekly free government clinic closed. Now, the children and elderly there are suffering from diarrhea and malnourishment. There is no one to perform surgeries or deliver babies. Food is scarce, and most people are relying on traditional medicines. READ: Ousted Myanmar leader on trial; critics say charges bogus “We are barely scraping by,” she says. “I feel death is just around the corner for us.” For countless others, like Mg Htan Naing, death has already come. The baby’s parents buried him in their garden, then fled. His father blames his son’s death not on the doctors on strike, but on the soldiers who drove them from Mindat. This is what haunts the country’s caretakers of the sick and wounded: The people they could have saved, if only they had not been under attack. “Given the chance, we could have stopped bleeding, we could have saved the patients, we could have prevented deaths. It hurts,” says the Yangon doctor. “The people dying are not just nobodies. They are our country’s future generations.”
Three anti-coup protesters were shot dead by security forces on Monday, local media reported, as workers staged a general strike across the country against the return of military rule.
Australia has suspended its defense cooperation with Myanmar and is redirecting humanitarian aid in the country because of last month's military takeover of the government and the ongoing detention of an Australian citizen.
The escalation of violence in Myanmar as authorities crack down on protests against the Feb. 1 coup is raising pressure for more sanctions against the junta, even as countries struggle over how to best sway military leaders inured to global condemnation.