Locals said two bombs went off at the entrance of Insein prison in Yangon and the military’s information office confirmed in a statement that five visitors, including a 10-year-old girl, and three prison staff were killed.
It said 13 visitors, including a 9-year-old boy, and five prison personnel were being treated for injuries at Insein township hospital
An eyewitness said that a number of civilians were present when the explosions occurred, as they were at the prison delivering food to their imprisoned relatives
The Insein Prison staff killed in the attack were identified as Kyaw Zin Oo, Khin Moe Wai and Poe Ei Zan, according to Myanmar Now.
“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,” one member of the public told Myanmar Now.
She said that she saw five people fall and that they were carried away.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack and it was unclear what caused the explosions.
A number of cases scheduled to be heard in the adjoining courts were cancelled after the explosions, according to media reports.
Insein prison has been notorious for decades for housing political prisoners under various military governments. In four months last year, the military junta detained more than 4,300 people and the primary destination has been Insein.
Recent prisoners include two American journalists and an Australian economic adviser.
A former guard who worked for 25 years at various prisons, including Insein in 1986 and 1987, said to the New York Times political prisoners were often tortured for minor crimes.
The leader of the 2007 monk-led protests movement who spent more than six years said to the New York Times: "They punched and kicked them with military boots in front of me. My brother lost two front teeth.”
Widespread detentions have increased once again since Myanmar’s military took power in a coup on 1 February 2021.
Their takeover collapsed all hopes of transitioning towards democracy.