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October 15, 2013

Bomb Blast Wounds American Tourist at Rangoon Hotel

by VOA News

Police in Burma have detained three suspects in connection with a blast late Monday at an upscale hotel in Burma's main city Rangoon. The explosion wounded an American woman and follows a series of suspected bomb blasts that killed two people and injured several others in the past four days.

Police said a homemade time bomb was to blame for the blast late Monday evening in a guest room on the ninth floor at Traders Hotel in downtown Rangoon.

The victim, a 43-year-old woman who was visiting Burma with her family, suffered serious cuts in the blast, which blew out glass shards some 20 meters from the hotel building.

Witness Graeme Romer, a guest at the hotel, said he heard the explosion and rushed downstairs to see what happened. "It sounded like a subdued boom. I wasn't entirely sure so I called reception, and reception said not to worry. So I came downstairs and there was a lady wrapped in bed linen at the bottom of the stairs. She was obviously bleeding profusely," explained Romer.

Romer said hotel security had been heightened that day, after police issued a warning to remain cautious in the wake of recent bomb blasts.

No one has claimed responsibility for the other blasts in recent days and police have released few details about them. Media reports say at least two people were killed and several others wounded in the explosions.

Human Rights Watch researcher for Burma, Dave Mathieson, said the blast at Traders Hotel is significant because it is the first time the international community has been a target of attacks.

"I think there's certainly patterns in terms of the devices being relatively small and designed to alarm and frighten people more than actually cause injury or death but I think what is different about the pattern of last night's pattern at the Traders Hotel is that it's in a very prominent public landmark where lots of foreigners congregate," said Mathieson.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told Radio Free Asia that the series of bombing may be aimed at causing concern over stability in Burma as it prepares to host the Southeast Asian Games later this year and take over as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014.

When Burma was under direct military rule, separatist groups and government opponents detonated homemade bombs in populated areas. But until now, such blasts have become rare in recent years.

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