Myanmar police fired on protesters on the bloodiest day of weeks of demonstrations against a military coup, with at least 18 people killed and several wounded, sources said.
Myanmar has been in chaos ever since the army seized power and detained elected government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership on February 1, alleging fraud in a November election.
The coup, which brought a halt to tentative steps toward democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, has drawn hundreds of thousands onto the streets. "Myanmar is like a battlefield," the Buddhist-majority nation's first Catholic cardinal, Charles Maung Bo, said.
Police opened fire in different parts of the biggest city of Yangon after stun grenades, tear gas and shots in the air failed to break up crowds. Soldiers also reinforced police.
Several wounded people were hauled away by fellow protesters, leaving bloody smears on pavements. One man died after being brought to a hospital with a bullet in the chest.
A woman died of a suspected heart attack after police swooped to break up a Yangon teachers' protest with stun grenades. Police also opened fire in Dawei in the south, killing three and wounding several. Two people were reported to have been killed in Mandalay.
Police broke up protests in other towns.
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing said last week authorities were using minimal force to deal with the protests. Nevertheless, at least 21 protesters have now died in the turmoil.
The crackdown appears to indicate determination by the military to impose its authority in the face of widespread defiance, not just on the streets but, more broadly, across various sectors.