- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 7, 2005

RANGOON, Burma — Three explosions rocked Burma’s capital yesterday, killing 11 persons and wounding 162 others in the latest bombings blamed on ethnic rebels in the military-ruled country.

The blasts occurred in rapid succession at a convention center and two bustling supermarkets in neighborhoods across the city of 5 million people, starting around midafternoon. It was not immediately known how many people died at each site.

State television said several ethnic rebel groups, including the Karen National Union and the Shan State Army, were behind the attacks. It called the perpetrators “terrorists” who were trying to disrupt “stability and tranquility.”

TV footage of the bombing sites showed storefronts littered with rubble and broken glass and floors splattered with blood, along with a public advisory urging Rangoon residents to remain alert for further violence.

Authorities shut down markets across the city over security concerns after the blasts, which occurred less than two weeks after a purported rebel bombing at a market in the northern city of Mandalay that killed two women and wounded 15 other persons.

The first bomb yesterday blew up at an exhibition hall where a Thai trade fair was under way, killing three persons from Burma, including a Buddhist monk, and wounding many others, a security official said on the condition of anonymity.

Some Thais attending the convention were hurt when people rushed to escape the hall following the blast, which blew out windows as high as the second floor of the building.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra instructed Thai citizens in Rangoon to move to safe areas or to go to the Thai Embassy to await a military flight scheduled to arrive from Bangkok today to evacuate them.

The second explosion tore through a City Mart supermarket in northern Rangoon, wounding several people and wrecking the store’s exterior. Soldiers moved in to guard the area as smoke billowed out of the ground-floor supermarket.

The final explosion struck northwestern Rangoon’s Dagon shopping center at about 3 p.m., wounding many people.

Large windowpanes were blown out, and appliances from the store’s shelves were scattered amid debris on the ground floor of the 11-story building, while black smoke billowed out from the supermarket, residents said.

Security forces blocked off the main roads in the area, while riot police with batons and shields stood guard and tried to shoo away residents, warning them that there could be more explosions.

The military has ruled Burma since 1962. The current regime took power in 1988 after brutally crushing a pro-democracy uprising. It keeps tight control over the population, and anti-government violence is unusual, often bringing severe punishment.

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