A passenger on a plane was hit mid-air by a bullet that had been shot from the ground, piercing right through the fuselage.
The man had been travelling on a Myanmar National Airlines plane, which was was about to touch down in Loikaw, Myanmar when he was struck yesterday.
A photo shows the victim in his seat, slumped over and holding a tissue to the right side of his neck and cheek, while blood-soaked tissues lie beside him. He was rushed to hospital on landing.
Another image shows the hole in the fuselage made by the bullet, which struck the plane when it was flying at an altitude of 3,500ft around four miles north of the airport, reports The Sun.
All flights to the city, which is the capital of Kayah state, were cancelled indefinitely, said Myanmar National Airlines’ office in Loikaw.
The country’s military government have laid the blame on rebel forces, though rebel groups deny having anything to do with the shooting.
Major General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesperson for Myanmar’s ruling military council, told state TV: “I want to say that this kind of attack on the passenger plane is a war crime.
“People and organisations who want peace need to condemn this issue all round.”
There has been intense fighting between military and rebel groups in the eastern state of Kayah since the army overthrew the country’s democratically elected government last February and took control.
The coup led to peaceful protests – which the new government ruthlessly cracked down on. This in turn caused thousands of civilians to form militia units as part of a People’s Defense Force in order to retaliate.
The military government claimed Karenni National Progressive Party – a militia fighting the government – and its allies in the People’s Defense Force were responsible for the shooting.
But Khu Daniel, a leader of the Karenni National Progressive Party, was adamant his party had not ordered its fighters to shoot at civilians or passenger planes.
“The military always blames other organisations for the shootings. Our armed wing didn’t shoot the plane this morning,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, another rebel group, called the allegations nothing more than “defamatory propaganda against the revolutionary forces by the Military Council.
He added that the runway and the rest of the airfield is surrounded by infantry battalions and high security areas, making it very difficult for People’s Defence Force members to carry out such a shooting.
The government said it had increased security around the airport.