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Bomb Kills 5 in Rangoon

Bomb Kills 5 in Rangoon Shrine 

                  Thursday, December 26, 1996 10:01 am EST 

                  RANGOON, Burma (AP) -- A bomb exploded near a Buddhist shrine
                  popular with pilgrims and leaders of the military regime while
                  investigators were examining damage from a blast two hours
                  Five people were killed. 

                  There were no casualties in the first explosion in the
Maha Pasana
                  cave, where thousands pay homage daily to a relic believed
to be one
                  of Buddha's teeth. 

                  But the second blast Wednesday night killed five people
and injured
                  18. The man-made cave next to the Kaba Aye pagoda, eight
miles north
                  of Rangoon, was filling with pilgrims at the time, the
                  newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported today. Myanmar is
                  name for Burma. 

                  It was not clear how many people were inside. The dead
included a
                  Red Cross worker, a police officer and two people in a
                  organization linked to the government, according to the
newspaper. A
                  second officer died later. All of the victims were
believed to be

                  A monk, six police officers and five pilgrims were among
the injured,
                  the newspaper said. 

                  Lt. Gen. Tin Oo, third in command of the ruling State Law
and Order
                  Restoration Council, had visited the shrine just three
hours before the
                  first explosion. After the second explosion, the cave was
                  Security was tight today, but worshipers were allowed to
pray 50
                  yards away at the pagoda. 

                  The second bomb was believed to have been hidden in a vase. 

                  No claim of responsibility was mentioned in the newspaper
report. But
                  the government blamed the All-Burma Student Democratic
Front and
                  the Karen National Union, two insurgent groups based in

                  It said the groups were aiming to destroy the relic and
relations with
                  China, the Southeast Asian country's closest ally and
chief arms
                  supplier. China lent the tooth relic to Burma. 

                  Security was stepped up today around the Chinese
ambassador's home
                  and official Chinese offices. 

                  Burmese government officials were not available for
comment. Earlier,
                  official media had blamed the explosions on ``destructive
elements,'' a
                  term usually referring to supporters of pro-democracy
leader Aung San
                  Suu Kyi's party and alleged communist guerrillas the
regime blames for
                  whipping up student unrest. 

                  Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent
                  democracy campaign, and her supporters eschew violence. The
                  communist party in Burma disintegrated in 1989. 

                  The government has cracked down this month on student
                  demanding more civil liberties. The student demonstrations
marked the
                  biggest street unrest since the regime gunned down
thousands of
                  pro-democracy marchers in 1988. 

                  The Chinese Embassy today issued a statement condemning the
                  bombings as a ``terrorist action.'' 

                  ``The bomb attacks on the sacred shrine killing and
injuring the
                  innocent people blaspheme the Buddha and go against the
will of the
                  people,'' the statement read. 

                  The tooth was not damaged, New Light of Myanmar said. It
is believed
                  to be one of two teeth remaining since the Buddha's death
2,500 years

                  When the tooth arrived in Burma on Dec. 6, it was taken to
the cave in
                  a chariot drawn by an elephant replete with regalia in the
style of
                  Burma's ancient kingdom. 

                  The bombing was the first reported in Burma since July 3,
when a
                  bomb exploded in a park near the U.S. Embassy beneath a
                  denouncing Burma's pro-democracy movement. No one was injured.
                  State media blamed ``destructionists'' -- again, referring
to Suu Kyi's