The explosions killed at least 8 people at Insein prison in Myanmar

BANGKOK (AP) – A bomb attack near the entrance gate of Myanmar’s main prison for political prisoners killed at least eight people, including visitors and prison staff, local media and the government said Wednesday.

Five people delivering packages to prisoners and three prison staff were killed when two bombs exploded around 9:40 a.m., News of Myanmar, an online news service sympathetic to the country’s military government, reported on the Telegram social media platform. The explosions occurred inside and outside the parcel receiving office near the main iron gate of Insein Prison in Yangon, the country’s largest city.

The military information office confirmed in a statement that five visitors, including a 10-year-old girl, and three prison officers were killed, and that an unexploded bomb was also found in the package. It said 13 visitors, including a 9-year-old boy, and five prison staff were being treated for injuries at Insein City Hospital.

The prison has been known for decades for holding political prisoners under various military governments. Families of prisoners are allowed to bring packages with items such as food, clothing and medicine.

Several resistance groups fighting the military government, including the Yangon Revolution Force, the Yangon Urban Guerrillas and the General Strike Committee, quickly released statements condemning the attacks for injuring civilians.

However, a little-known anti-government group later released a statement on Telegram claiming to have carried out the attack. Burma’s Special Task Force Agency said it launched the mission because of the continued oppression of revolutionary fighters by prison staff. Civilian casualties are said to be caused by indiscriminate firing by security forces following the blasts.

Claims of responsibility, especially in cases where civilians are killed, are often controversial because, although many anti-government groups operate autonomously and with little discipline or training, some attacks are suspected to be carried out by provocateurs working for the government to discredit the resistance movement.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military seized power from the elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi last year, sparking peaceful protests across the country that security forces quelled with lethal force. The crackdown led to widespread armed resistance, which has since turned into what some UN experts have described as a civil war.

About 2,367 civilians died in the crackdown on resistance, according to detailed lists compiled by the Association for Aid to Political Prisoners, a human rights group.

Bombings and shootings in Myanmar’s cities and armed conflicts in the countryside occur daily. Urban guerrillas opposed to military rule carry out targeted killings of people connected to the military and bombings of facilities with official connections.

Photos of Wednesday’s bombings distributed by the military’s information office showed items strewn from the explosions and blood on the floor inside a building that receives packages for prisoners.

A resident who lives near the prison’s front gate told The Associated Press by phone that he heard about 10 gunshots after hearing the two explosions, but did not know if they caused any casualties.

A lawyer who went to the prison about an hour after the explosions said that the visitor arrival and package receiving areas were empty when he arrived, and that additional security was deployed outside the prison’s main gate. He said he was told court hearings at the prison had been postponed.

The resident and the lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by security forces for speaking to the media.

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