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Blasts kill 11, wound 162 in Myanmar capital

Ethnic rebels exploded bombs almost simultaneously at two supermarkets and a convention center in Myanmar's capital on Saturday, killing 11 people and wounding 162 others, state television reported.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ethnic rebels exploded bombs almost simultaneously at two busy supermarkets and a convention center in Myanmar's capital on Saturday, killing 11 people and wounding 162 others, state television reported.

The blasts occurred over a 10-minute period starting at mid afternoon at the exhibition center in western Yangon, then at two City Mart supermarkets in the northern and northwestern sections of the city.

State television blamed several ethnic rebel groups, including the Karen National Union and the Shan State Army, for the attacks, calling the insurgents "terrorists" who were acting "with the objective of disrupting stability and tranquility."

Television footage showed extensive damage at the bombing sites, including smashed storefront windows and blood-splattered floors, while an official warned the public to remain alert in case of further unrest.

Three people, including a Buddhist monk, were killed and many others wounded at the convention center, where a Thai trade fair was being held, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

Officials in Myanmar often refuse to speak on the record for fear of being penalized by the country's secretive military regime.

Thai citizens to be evacuated
The victims were from Myanmar, but some Thais were hurt when people stampeded to get out of the convention hall following the blast, the official added. Witnesses said earlier that the explosion blew out windows as high as the second floor.

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

In another blast, several people were wounded at a City Mart supermarket at the Dagon shopping center in northwestern Yangon.

"I heard a loud explosion and saw several sales girls in their gray and light yellow uniforms rushing out of the City Mart with blood streaming down from their faces," said Hla Hla, a 32-year-old resident who arrived in the area minutes after the blast.

The exterior of the store was severely damaged, with large window panes shattered and appliances from the store's shelves scattered amid debris on the ground floor of the 11-story building.

One resident reported seeing black smoke billowing from the supermarket.

Threat of further explosions
Authorities blocked off the four main roads in the area, while riot police with batons and shields stood guard, telling residents to leave the area because of the threat of further explosions.

"We managed to escape, but some of my friends were hurt," a sales woman cried at the scene.

Residents said more than a dozen people were hurt in that explosion, and that the victims were taken to the emergency ward of Yangon General Hospital -- the main hospital in the city of 5 million people.

An explosion at another City Mart store in northern Yangon wounded several people and caused similar damage, another witness said. Smoke poured out of the ground-floor supermarket and soldiers moved in to guard the area.

Markets across the capital were shut by authorities because of security concerns following the explosions.

At Yangon General Hospital, ambulances carrying bloodied victims arrived while anxious relatives waited for news of their kin.

Dozens of the wounded were seen in one of the hospital's wards with severe burns, head wounds or lying unconscious and covered with blood.

Other rebel attacks
The explosions came less than two weeks after a bombing at a bustling market in the northern city of Mandalay killed two women and wounded 15 other people. The junta blamed that attack -- the most deadly bombing in recent years -- on unidentified rebels.

Last month, state media reported several rebel attacks, including an ambush by ethnic Karen rebels on a convoy of trucks and buses in southern Myanmar that left eight people dead, and the bombing of a northeastern utility tower by ethnic Karenni.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military for more than four decades. The current regime took power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy uprising. The junta keeps tight control over the population and anti-government violence is rare, often bringing quick and severe punishment.