MANDALAY, Burma -- Security forces in Burma on Saturday again met protests over last month's military takeover with lethal force, killing at least seven people by shooting live ammunition at demonstrators.
Four deaths were reported in Mandalay, the country's second-biggest city, two in Pyay, a town in south-central Burma, and one in Twante, a suburb of Rangoon, Burma's largest city. Details of all seven deaths were posted on social media accounts, some accompanied by photos of the victims.
The actual death toll is likely to be higher, as police apparently seized some bodies, and some of the victims suffered grievous gunshot wounds that doctors and nurses working at makeshift clinics will be hard-pressed to treat. Many hospitals are occupied by security forces, and as a result are boycotted by medical personnel and shunned by protesters.
The independent U.N. human-rights expert for Burma, Tom Andrews, said Thursday that "credible reports" indicated security forces in the Southeast Asian nation had so far killed at least 70 people, and cited growing evidence of crimes against humanity since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Other unofficial but carefully compiled tallies put the total number of deaths since the coup at around 90.
Saturday's killings did not faze demonstrators in Rangoon who crowded a downtown commercial area past the official 8 p.m. curfew to hold a mass candlelight vigil and to sing about their cause. The mostly young protesters rallied at an intersection where they usually gather for daytime protests.
After-dark rallies also were held in Mandalay and elsewhere.
Reports on social media also said three people were shot dead Friday night in Rangoon, where residents for the past week have been defying the curfew to go out onto the streets.
Two deaths by gunfire were reported in Rangoon's Thaketa township, where a protest being held outside a police station was dispersed. A crowd had gathered there to demand the release of three young men who were seized from their home earlier Friday night. Photos said to be of the bodies of two dead protesters were posted online. The other reported fatality Friday night was of a 19-year-old man shot in Hlaing township.
The nighttime protests may reflect a more aggressive approach to self-defense that has been advocated by some protesters. Police had been aggressively patrolling residential neighborhoods at night, firing into the air and setting off stun grenades in an effort at intimidation. They also have been carrying out targeted raids, taking people from their homes with minimal resistance. In at least two known cases, the detainees died in custody within hours of being taken away.
Another possible indication of heightened resistance emerged Saturday with photos posted online of a railway bridge said to have been damaged by an explosive charge.
The bridge was described in several accounts as being on the rail line from Mandalay to Myitkyina, the capital of the northern state of Kachin. The photos show damage to part of a concrete support.
No one took responsibility for the action, but it could serve a twofold purpose.
In Washington on Friday, the President Joe Biden's administration announced that it is offering temporary legal residency to people from Burma, citing the military's takeover and ongoing deadly force against civilians.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the designation of temporary protected status for people from Burma would last for 18 months. The offer of temporary legal residency applies to people already in the United States. Mayorkas said in a statement that worsening conditions in Burma would make it difficult for those people to safely return home.
Additionally, four Indian states bordering Burma have stepped up measures to prevent refugees from entering India, a government official said Saturday.
India's Home Ministry asked the states to deal with such people strictly on a case-to-case basis on humanitarian grounds.
"I am aware of the Home Ministry directive," Kumar Abhishek, a government administrator in Serchhip district in Mizoram state, told reporters.
The directive cautioned that the four states were not authorized to accord refugee status to anyone entering India from Burma, as India is not a signatory to the U.N. Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
India's Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh states border Burma.
Burma is often called Myanmar, a name that military authorities adopted in 1989. Some nations, such as the United States and Britain, have refused to adopt the name change.
Information for this article was contributed by Wasbir Hussain and staff members of The Associated Press.