One dead, 10 injured in explosion at junta bridge checkpoint in Karen State capital

A police source says seven of those injured in the blast, for which no group has claimed responsibility, were junta soldiers

An explosion demolished a junta checkpoint at the Salween Bridge in Hpa-an Township, Karen State, at 7am on Monday, killing one civilian and injuring around 10 others, including several soldiers, according to local and police sources. 

“The checkpoint was already destroyed when we got there. You could say that the explosion was pretty big,” said an officer from a local social welfare group. 

A police source told Myanmar Now that seven of the 10 people wounded were Myanmar army troops. 

The blast occurred while members of the military stationed at the post were searching a Toyota vehicle parked nearby, according to the Karen Information Center (KIC). The local media group cited locals describing the checkpoint as having been “blown into pieces.” 

KIC also reported that the military had increased security at the Taung Kalay military hospital and that it was also conducting searches in Hpa-An town, which is also the state capital.

Several vehicles were also destroyed in the explosion, and a small crater remained in the road at the time of reporting, according to photos of the scene. 

Young travellers have frequently been arrested at the Salween Bridge checkpoint after being asked by soldiers to exit their vehicles, show their identification documents, and present their mobile phones to be checked for evidence of any political activities or affiliation. If such materials are found, they are often asked to pay bribes, locals explained.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. 

Vehicles seen in the aftermath of the explosion (CJ via Hpa-an News / Facebook)

Hpa-an Township is considered the Brigade 7 territory of the Karen National Union (KNU), a major ethnic armed organisation in the region; across the bridge is the KNU’s Brigade 1, or Thaton District.

KNU spokesperson Padoh Saw Kler Say commented that the site of the explosion was known for its significant presence of  junta security forces.

“We don’t know the details yet, but there are a lot of LDFs in the area,” he told Myanmar Now, referring to anti-regime guerrilla groups known as Local Defence Forces. “I think it would have been very difficult to conduct such an attack without a [junta] insider’s help.”

Maj Saw Kyaw Myint, the chairperson of the alliance affairs supervision committee of the KNU’s Thaton District operations, claimed that the explosion was not their doing. He noted that while the military checkpoint is located in the KNU’s Brigade 7 territory, it would be very difficult to identify which group could have been behind the blast, as several armed forces operate in the area. 

Myanmar Now was unable to obtain comment from the defence department of the publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG) at the time of reporting. 

The Southern Military Region Command of the People’s Defence Force under the NUG, restricted night access to the Yangon-Hpa-an road and the roads connecting Bago to Yangon starting on July 1. 

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