Bomb blasts, gunfire at Myanmar’s biggest prison kills eight, including guards 

At least eight people were killed and 15 injured after Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison was hit with two explosions and a shooting on Wednesday morning, according to sources at the site.

At around 9:40am, two parcel bombs went off near the main entrance of the prison: one detonated in a building where staff receive care packages for prisoners and another one went off outside.

An eyewitness told Myanmar Now that a number of civilians were present when the explosions occurred, as they were at the prison to deliver food and other necessities to their incarcerated relatives. 

Following the explosions, gunshots were fired from a prison watchtower—presumably by prison guards or junta troops—causing the people at the location to scatter.  

Three of those killed in the attack were prison staff and five were civilians, said a source within the police force. At least 15 others were injured, the majority of whom were members of the public, he added.

The Insein Prison staff killed in the attack were identified as Kyaw Zin Oo, Khin Moe Wai and Poe Ei Zan. 

Among the civilian casualties was the mother of incarcerated student activist Lin Htet Naing, commonly known as James, who was at the prison to deliver a care package for her son. 

Further information about the remaining victims was not known at the time of the reporting. 

The eyewitness claimed that the casualties were not caused by the bomb blasts but by the subsequent shooting from the watchtower.

“I am not sure if the shooters were soldiers or employees at the prison. They opened fire indiscriminately from a watchtower opposite the explosion site. There were around 10 rounds fired, and those hit people, too,” she told Myanmar Now.

She said that she saw five people fall and that they were carried away. Myanmar Now is unable to independently verify her account of the incident. 

All court hearings inside the Insein Prison were subsequently cancelled for the day, according to the relative of a political prisoner who was at the location at the time of the attack. 

No group claimed responsibility for the bombing, and Myanmar’s military council had not issued a statement on the incident at the time of reporting.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, in-person family visits with prisoners across the country have been suspended. The ban remains in place at the time of reporting, widely seen as a measure imposed by the military to cut off communications between Myanmar’s thousands of political prisoners and the outside world. Those detained on politically motivated charges have only been able to communicate with relatives through the lawyers representing them.

Junta authorities only allow prisoners access to weekly or fortnightly parcel deliveries from family members. This delivery of food and other basic supplies remains critical to the survival of those incarcerated under the military regime.

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