At least two people were killed during an anti-coup protest in Myanmar in the bloodiest day since the Feb. 1 military takeover that led to the arrest of the country's de facto leader and kicked off weeks of nearly nonstop demonstrations.
According to multiple reports from Mandalay, the country's second-largest city, police confronted striking ship workers and other protesters in an hours-long standoff. Some demonstrators are said to have flung projectiles at police, who attempted to disperse the hundreds-strong demonstration by firing off live rounds alongside tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. Reuters says witnesses found cartridges for live rounds alongside rubber bullets on the ground.
Both residents and protesters were forced to flee the area as security forces chased after them, The Associated Press reports. Some journalists also fled after being hit by tear gas and slingshot projectiles.
One man died on the scene after being shot in the head and another en route to receiving treatment after being shot in the chest, according to media reports that cited local journalists and medical workers. At least 20 others were injured, according to multiple reports.
Saturday's deaths follow the death Friday of a young woman who was shot in the head during protests last week. The death of 20-year-old Mya Thwet Thwet Khine marked the first confirmed fatality to occur in the protests, which were spurred by the military takeover and arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy party. The junta had seized power, baselessly claiming the landslide win for Suu Kyi'a party in a November election was the result of fraud.
Suu Kyi has been detained since her arrest and been charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies — a charge widely viewed as politically motivated — and violating Article 25 of the National Disaster Management Law.
The junta is facing sanctions from the U.S. and other countries.
Violence in the weeks of demonstrations had largely been limited, but recent protests in Myanmar have been met with crackdowns by security forces.
Earlier in the week in Mandalay, the AP notes, state railway workers joining a civil disobedience movement were met with similar force by security forces. Videos posted on social media showed muzzle flashes and police firing off slingshots and throwing rocks at buildings.
Police also used force in arresting protesters in the northern state of Kachin on Friday.
The army says one police officer has died of injuries sustained during the protests, Reuters reports.
Also on Saturday, in the cities of Yangon and Naypyitaw, young people held ceremonies for Mya Thwet Thwet Khine, the young woman who died Friday. She had been on life support after being shot in the head during protest in the capitol Naypyitaw.
Thousands also marched peacefully in several parts of Myanmar on Saturday, including in the northern town of Myitkyina and in Bagan and Pathein, Reuters reported.
NPR's Michael Sullivan contributed to this report.