Myanmar protesters injured as police escalate use of force

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An injured protester is escorted as police tried to disperse a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (AP Photo)

YANGON – Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg.

Protesters had gathered on a wide road outside a park in Mandalay in the early afternoon when security forces arrived and began firing what sounded like gunshots and using flash bang grenades to disperse the crowd.

Bullets, shell casings, and other projectiles were later found by local residents on one of the main streets and shown to journalists.

The victims were all taken to a private clinic for treatment. One of the men who was shot in the chest with a rubber bullet also had a white bandage wrapped around his head. The man with an injured leg was later photographed in a cast that stretched from his foot to his knee.

The confrontations underscore the rising tensions between a growing popular revolt and the generals who toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a Feb. 1 takeover that shocked the international community and reversed years of slow progress toward democracy.

Also Friday, a Japanese journalist covering a separate protest in Yangon, the country’s largest city, was detained by police and later released, according to Japan's Kyodo news agency. Yuki Kitazumi could be seen in a video circulating among media as police seized him, with one of the officers briefly putting a truncheon around the journalist's neck.

Earlier in the day, security forces in Yangon fired warning shots and beat truncheons against their shields while moving to disperse more than 1,000 anti-coup protesters.

The demonstrators had gathered in front of a popular shopping mall, holding placards and chanting slogans denouncing the Feb. 1 coup even as the security presence increased and a water-cannon truck was brought to the area.