by Fone Ying Kyu
YANGON, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Three combined armed groups continued to launch attack on Kutkai, a town in Myanmar's northern Shan state, with heavy weapons on Sunday but retreated with heavy losses as the government forces repulsed them, according to a news release of the Defense Services on Monday.
The attack involved about 150 members of the three Northern Alliance armed groups -- the Arakan Army (AA), Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Kokang's Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) which approached Kutkai from three places from the south-west to fire heavy weapons on the town.
On Saturday evening, the armed groups had blown up one more reinforced concrete bridge at the entrance of Nartee village on Lashio-Hsenwi-Kunlong highway, damaging the bridge and cutting off the transport.
The coordinated attacks of the combined armed groups, which started in the early hours of Aug. 15, launched artillery shells at five places in Mandalay region and Shan state and killed 15 with 13 others injured.
The deaths include three civilians, three policemen and nine military personnels while the injured include 10 civilians, two police personnels and one military serviceman, according to the president's office.
In Pyin Oo Lwin of Mandalay region, the Defense Services Technological Academy and a toll gate near the exit gate of Pyin Oo Lwin town were also attacked.
Other places attacked include the Gote Twin police outpost, a toll gate, a narcotic checkpoint and a local battalion headquarters in Nawnghkio township.
The military blamed the armed groups for such attacks as their drug producing camps were captured in Kutkai township from July 25 to 28, dealing a heavy blow to the drug trafficking businesses of the armed groups.
The clashes focused on Saturday as bridges on Hsenwi-Kunlong road were destroyed and a petrol station on Lashio-Hsenwi road was burned.
A battalion headquarters in Kyaukme was also attacked by rocket propelled grenades.
The groups also mined two reinforced concrete bridges of Byone Taung on Namt Slup-Kunlong road and Mantonsun on Hsenwi-Namt Slup road.
In the armed groups' heavy arms attacks, a vehicle from a local philanthropic association from Lashio was hit with one killed.
Later in the afternoon, about 200 armed group members approached from Kone Sar side, northeast of Lashio, to attack the town but were forced to retreat with heavy casualties.
In conducting mine clearance operation around Gote Twin bridge, sabotaged by the armed groups, 33 improvised explosive devices with half ton of explosives, 22 detonators and grenades were found.
As the Gote Twin bridge was blown up, traffic from Mandalay to Lashio was forced to halt but workers are trying to build a double lane bailey bridge within five days as a substitution, according to the Construction Ministry.
The Gote Twin bridge lies on Lashio-Muse border trade route at the road section of Pyin Oo Lwin and Nawnghkio with 5,000 vehicles carrying commodities worth of 15 million U.S. dollars passing through the bridge daily.
Meanwhile, Myanmar military authorities called on stakeholders to effectively engage in peace talks without delay during the ceasefire period which will end on Aug. 31.
The military first set the suspension period of military operation against armed groups in five military command regions from Dec. 21, 2018 to April 30, 2019 which was extended for three times until August 31, 2019.
During the non-operation period, all military actions are set to be suspended in the northern, northeastern, eastern, middle-eastern and triangle military command areas.