(Update 2: upgrades death toll according to United Nations, adds detail throughout)
Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 28 (efe-epa).- At least 18 people were killed during mass protests across Myanmar on Sunday as police used live ammunition to launch what was by far the bloodiest crackdown since the military seized power from the elected government on Feb. 1, the United Nations human rights office said.
The regional UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said credible sources reported that police fired live ammunition into crowds of demonstrators in Yangon, the former capital and largest city, Dawei, Mandalay, Myeik, Bago and Pokokku.
“We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protestors,” a statement from the entity ran.
It added that police in Myanmar had increasingly targeted dissenting voices by arresting political officials, activists, civil society members, journalists and medical professionals.
“Today alone, police have detained at least 85 medical professionals and students, as well as seven journalists, who were present at the demonstrations.”
Eye-witnesses earlier confirmed to Efe that a protester in Mandalay died after security forces shot him in the head.
In Yangon, police opened fire and launched tear gas and stun grenades against thousands of residents protesting the military takeover, an Efe correspondent on the ground reported.
Photos and video posted to social media by residents and local press showed several wounded and bloody protesters. Shots could be heard, with reports of both live ammunition and rubber bullets being used by security forces.
Brutal police tactics were also reported at protests in Lashio, Bago, Myeik and Myitkyina.