Bombs kill 9 at Myanmar New Year water festival

April 15, 2010
YANGON, Myanmar – Three bombs ripped through traditional New Year festivities in Myanmar's biggest city of Yangon Thursday, killing nine people and injuring 75 others, officials and state television said.

There was no indication who was behind the blasts, which occurred at about 3 p.m. near some 20 pavilions erected for the celebrations at the sprawling Kandawgyi Lake. Myanmar is celebrating the annual four-day water festival, when people drench each other with water to usher in the Myanmar New Year on Saturday.

State television and radio put the death toll at six _ three men and three women. It said 75 people including 16 women were injured. However, a hospital official said nine people were killed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information.

The conflicting figures could not be immediately reconciled.

Television pictures from the site showed pools of blood and scattered sandals, left behind by fleeing revelers. The television broadcast described the blasts as the handiwork of "terrorists" but did not blame any group or organization. No one has claimed responsibility.

Bombings are rare but not unknown in the cities of Myanmar, whose military rulers are fighting several insurgencies in remote provinces. The pro-democracy movement led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been based on the principle of nonviolence.

Witnesses said the emergency ward of Yangon General Hospital was sealed off to outsiders after at least 30 injured people were rushed there. One said the hospital was a scene of chaos and commotion, with injured arriving drenched in blood and people crying and moaning.

"Truckloads of police have circled the area and police had arrived with sniffer dogs," said 24-year old Thant Zaw, a witness contacted by phone.

A hospital official said the casualties so far did not include any foreigners, though the festival is a tourist attraction.

It was the worst such attack since May 2005 when a series of bombs exploded at two upscale supermarkets and at a convention center, killing 19 people and injuring more than 160 others.

In the past, the government has blamed bomb blasts on exiled anti-government groups and insurgents including ethnic Karen rebels fighting for greater autonomy in eastern Myanmar.


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