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Malaysian link suspected in Myanmar bombings

Security high across country after string of attacks

Malaysian link suspected in Myanmar bombings

Police stand guard outside Traders Hotel in Yangon following Monday's blast (AFP photo/Ye Aung Thu)

John Zaw, Mandalay

October 16, 2013

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Security has been stepped up in several cities across Myanmar following a string of bomb blasts over the past five days, with two Malaysian passport holders among those arrested.

Police have been deployed in greater numbers around Yangon and have urged the public to alert them to sightings of suspicious packages. One blast on Monday at a luxury hotel in Yangon injured an American woman.

Aung Shwe, deputy police chief of Mandalay Division, told that two suspects held in connection with the discovery of an unexploded bomb in Mandalay on Monday carried Malaysian passports.

“We have detained these two suspects as we are in the process of questioning, and they are yet to confess their involvement with the bomb device,” Aung Shwe told today.

A number of people have also been arrested in relation to the Yangon attack. One of the men, Saw Myint Lwin, 26, a suspect in the Traders Hotel blast, had also been under surveillance for suspected involvement in the planting of a second device in a Chinese restaurant in Yangon that was discovered on Monday.

According to police sources, three other suspects were arrested in connection to the two Yangon incidents.

In all, 10 incidents related to bombings or attempted bombings have occurred since Friday last week, when a blast at a guesthouse in Bago division’s Taunggo killed two people. Two small bombs exploded in Sagaing division on Tuesday.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, and it remains unclear whether they were coordinated.

The US embassy released a security alert to US citizens who reside in or are traveling to the country.

"While there is no indication at this time that any of these IEDs were specifically directed toward US citizens, the embassy asks that all citizens exercise an appropriate level of caution," Jen Psaki, US State Department spokeswoman, said on Tuesday in Washington.

Aung Shwe said that two men had been identified via CCTV as possibly involved in the Sagaing division attacks, and an investigation into their background is underway. It was unclear whether the two have been arrested.

Hla Maung Shwe, from the EU-funded Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), questioned whether the attacks were related to ongoing ethnic unrest.

“While the country is moving towards peace and national reconciliation with the ethnic groups, some ethnic people misunderstand these issues and they may try to reverse the reform process, but we vow that we will try to reach our goal of internal peace and a nationwide ceasefire accord.”

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told Radio Free Asia that it may well have been linked to Myanmar’s looming chairmanship of ASEAN.

"It must have been carried out to create worries and concern among the people and to make the international community doubt the security standard in Myanmar at a time when Myanmar is going to take the ASEAN chair."

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