RANGOON — Police said they arrested three men last week who were preparing to bomb religious buildings in Rangoon. Reportedly, the targets in Burma’s biggest city were mosques.
Min Aung, a police colonel at the Home Affairs Ministry, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the suspects were Burmese nationals, adding that two suspects were ethnic Arakanese from western Burma.
The accused include Khine Ne Lin, 34, from Arakan State’s Mrauk-U Township, Bo Bo, 28, from the Arakan capital Sittwe, and Thein Nyunt, 31, according to Min Aung, who did not elaborate on the origins of the last suspect.
Police acted on a tip-off on Nov. 13 and raided a guesthouse in Rangoon’s Hlaing Thayar Township, the officer said, adding that further investigations led to the arrests on Nov. 16 of Bo Bo in Sittwe and Thein Nyunt in Rangoon’s Hlaing Thayar Township.
Min Aung said the three had been planning to blow up religious buildings in Rangoon, but declined to discuss details of the alleged bomb plot. “It is difficult to state where they got bomb-training as we need to find out more things to find out who are on behind the suspects,” he added.
State-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported on Wednesday that police caught Khine Ne Lin “red-handed making bombs with gunpowder and related materials.”
The suspect, the paper said, “attended a course on mine planting at the border beginning on July 3, 2013. He received two ready-to-use, white colored hand-made mines, one packet of gunpowder and lead colored gunpowder.”
A police official told news agency AFP that religious Muslim buildings had been the target of the foiled plot. “They were planning to plant bombs at mosques, after attending training on the border in Karen State,” the unidentified officer was quoted as saying.
The former capital Rangoon is Burma’s biggest city and home to hundreds of thousands of Muslims, many of who live in the city’s busy downtown area.
Burma’s democratic transition under President Thein Sein’s reformist government has been marred by deadly anti-Muslim unrest. The violence first broke out between ethnic Arakanese Buddhist and Rohingya Muslims in 2012 before spreading to other parts of the country this year.
Buddhist mobs have gone on a rampage in Muslim neighborhoods more than a dozen times this year, and tensions between Buddhists and the Muslim minority continue to linger.
Last month, a spate of unexplained bomb blasts and attempted bombings added to ongoing tensions. The blasts killed three people and injured several others.
Several of the bomb blasts occurred in Rangoon. One explosion happened in the upscale Traders Hotel, where one American tourist was wounded.
Police later arrested several suspects, including a man from Karen State, who they alleged had been planning to bomb the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.