Three bombs hit Sittwe, injuring police officer


YANGON — Three bombs exploded early Saturday in the capital of Rakhine state, injuring one policeman, officials said.

The three blasts at separate locations around Sittwe included one at the home of a high ranking official, police told AFP.

Rakhine has been struggling with a decade-long rebellion fought by ethnic Rakhine insurgents but bombings in the state capital are rare.

“Three bombs exploded and three other unexploded bombs were found. A police officer was injured but not seriously,” a senior officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

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The blasts took place around 4:00 am, the officer said.

One was detonated in the compound of the state government secretary’s home, while the two others exploded in front of an office in the city and on a road leading to a beach.

A local official from the state government confirmed the explosions. Photos of the sites showed shattered windows and scattered debris.

“Some streets are being blocked by police already because of the bomb blasts,” Zaw Zaw, a resident of Sittwe, told AFP by phone.

In recent months, unrest in Rakhine has been concentrated in the state’s northern wedge, where a sweeping military crackdown on the Rohingya community last August pushed nearly 700,000 refugees across the border to Bangladesh.

But the restive state also hosts a simmering insurgency waged by a Rakhine insurgent group called the Arakan Army, which clashes with Myanmar troops.

Tensions between the community and local authorities have risen after a police crackdown on an ethnic Rakhine mob left seven dead last month.

That violence in Mrauk U Township prompted the Arakan Army’s political wing to warn of a “serious” retaliation for the deaths of the protesters.

Around two weeks later the town’s administrator was found murdered on the side of the road.

David Mathieson, an independent analyst based in Myanmar, said Saturday’s Sittwe blasts were more likely tied to ethnic Rakhine tensions than the Rohingya crisis, whose epicentre is further north.

The Arakan Army is “the only armed group operating in central Rakhine that would have the sophistication to do something like this”, he told AFP.

Coordinated strikes in an urban area would however mark a “significant escalation” of that rebellion, which typically sees clashes outside the capital.

He said it was unlikely that the bombs were linked to the Rohingya as very few Muslims have mobility in the capital.

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