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UN Human Rights Office says 18 killed in Myanmar crackdown

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Security forces in Myanmar opened fire and made mass arrests Sunday as they sought to break up protests against the military’s seizure of power, and a U.N. human rights official said it had “credible information” that at least 18 people were killed and 30 were wounded.

That would be the highest single-day death toll among protesters who are demanding that the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi be restored to power after being ousted by a Feb. 1 coup. About 1,000 people are believed to have been detained Sunday.

“Deaths reportedly occurred as a result of live ammunition fired into crowds in Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myeik, Bago and Pokokku,” the U.N. Human Rights Office said in a statement referring to several cities, adding that the forces also used tear gas, flash-bang grenades and stun grenades.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the crackdown, calling the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters and arbitrary arrests “unacceptable,” and expressed serious concern at the increase in deaths and serious injuries, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said

“The secretary-general urges the international community to come together and send a clear signal to the military that it must respect the will of the people of Myanmar as expressed through the election and stop the repression,” Dujarric said.

An Associated Press journalist was taken into police custody on Saturday morning while providing news coverage of the protests. The journalist, Thein Zaw, remains in police custody.

The AP called for his immediate release.

“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution. AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw,” said Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Myanmar also condemned the arrest.

The Democratic Voice of Burma reported that as of 5 p.m. in Myanmar, there had been 19 confirmed deaths in nine cities, with another 10 deaths unconfirmed. The independent media company broadcasts on satellite and digital terrestrial television, as well as online.

DVB counted five deaths in Yangon and two in Mandalay, the largest and second-largest cities.

It registered five deaths in Dawei, a much smaller city in southeastern Myanmar that has seen tens of thousands of protesters nearly every day since the coup.

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