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Radio Free Asia reports that the Arakan Army seizes control of two junta battalions in Rakhine state.

The Arakan Army has captured two key military units in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, giving it effective control of Minbya township and putting it in a position to challenge junta control of the state capital, according to an ethnic rebel alliance and sources in the region.

On Tuesday morning, the Arakan Army, or AA, routed Light Infantry Battalions 379 and 541 – the two junta battalions that remained in Minbya after the ethnic rebels captured the 380th battalion on Jan. 28 – the Three Brotherhood Alliance, of which the AA is a member, said in a statement.

“All junta soldiers surrendered to the AA,” said a resident who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

It wasn’t clear how many soldiers this entailed, but the latest estimates by military experts suggest most battalions in the Burmese Army have around 200 men.

The takeover means “the AA now controls Minbya,” he said. People are worried about possible airstrikes by the military and “don’t dare go outside.”

The advances are the latest in a series of victories for the Three Brotherhood Alliance, which launched a campaign in October on junta forces in the northern and western parts of the country.

The Three Brotherhood Alliance said in a statement late on Tuesday that the AA has now captured all but two of the 10 light infantry battalions under the aegis of the No. 9 Military Operations Command in Kyauktaw. They include the 379th, 380th and 541th battalions in Minbya; the 374th, 376th and 539th in Kyauktaw and 378th and 540th in Mrauk-U township – the last two of which were also taken on Tuesday morning, the alliance said.

No. 9 Military Operations Command in central Rakhine’s Kyauktaw township is one of three junta command centers in the state, the other two being No. 5 in southern Rakhine’s Toungup township and No. 15 in northern Rakhine’s Buthidaung township.

A Rakhine-based military observer told RFA that the AA is focusing on taking control of No. 9 Military Operations Command so that it can launch offensives from the region against battalions under No. 5 and No. 15.

The observer noted that the junta is ceding battalions and townships despite its use of the air force, navy and ground troops, suggesting that it no longer has the capacity to counter AA offensives.

“If the AA loses these towns, it can be assumed that the next phase of battles will occur in Sittwe … and Ann,” he said. “It may then spread further to Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships.”

The AA has yet to issue any statements about the junta battalions they have captured, casualties suffered in the fighting, or the number of military troops who have surrendered.

Another resident monitoring the military situation in Rakhine told RFA that the AA could assume control of as many as five townships in the north of the state by the end of February, before advancing south.

In its statement on Tuesday, the Three Brotherhood Alliance said it also expects that the AA will fully capture the Taung Pyo Let Wei and Taung Pyo Let Yar border outposts north of Rakhine’s Maungdaw township along the border with Bangladesh, days after launching attacks on the two areas.

More than 10,000 civilians have fled the clashes and at least 60 homes were destroyed in military airstrikes and artillery attacks, they said.

The junta has yet to release any statements related to the military situation in Rakhine state.

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