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Myanmar death toll mounts amid protests, military crackdown

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Security forces in central Myanmar opened fire on anti-coup protesters on Saturday in violence that a human rights group said has left 550 civilians dead since the Feb. 1 military takeover.

Of those, 46 were children, according to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Some 2,751 people have been detained or sentenced, the group said.

Threats of lethal violence and arrests of protesters have failed to suppress daily demonstrations across Myanmar demanding the military step down and reinstate the democratically elected government.

Government forces fired at demonstrators in Monywa city in central Myanmar, according to social media posts. One video showed a group of protesters carrying away a young man with what appeared to be a serious head wound, as gunfire sounded. His condition wasn´t immediately known.

Late Friday, armed plainclothes police took five people into custody after they spoke with a CNN reporter in a Yangon market, local media reported, citing witnesses. The arrests occurred in three separate incidents.

Two women reportedly shouted for help as they were being arrested, Myanmar Now news service reported. One police officer, who was carrying a gun, asked if “anyone dared to help them,” a witness told the news service.

“They pointed their pistols at everyone-at passersby and at people in the store,” a witness said of two police officers who forcibly took away two other women in the market.

Meanwhile, the Karen National Union representing the ethnic minority rebel group that has been fighting the government for decades condemned “non-stop bombings and airstrikes” against villages and “unarmed civilians” in their homeland along the border with Thailand.

“The attacks have caused the death of many people including children and students, and the destruction of schools, residential homes, and villages. These terrorist acts are clearly a flagrant violation of local and international laws,” the group said in a statement.

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