At least two explosions occurred at Yangon’s Insein Prison on Wednesday, which led to the death of three officials and five visitors, according to a statement by an information team for the country’s junta.
Eighteen people were said to have been injured in the blasts. The junta blamed the explosions on “terrorists.”
Myanmar has been in chaos since last year, when a military junta overthrew an elected government led by the party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The junta has launched a brutal clampdown on dissent, which is sometimes taking the form of self-declared civilian “people’s defense forces” that are fighting the military.
The prison holds thousands of political prisoners who have been jailed since the military coup.
According to the news portals Myanmar Now and Irawaddy News, the blasts occurred at 9:40 a.m. local time (0310 UTC) near the facility’s parcels counter.
The junta said the dead included three prison staff and a 10-year-old girl. It said security forces had defused another “homemade mine” device found nearby.
A witness who declined to be named told Reuters news agency that soldiers at the prison had opened fire in response to the blasts.
“As soon as I heard the blast, I ran out and that’s when I got hurt [by shrapnel]. The soldiers … at the entrance gate fired shots recklessly,” said the witness.
Rights groups said detainees held in the prison include the former British ambassador to Myanmar, Vicky Bowman, and Japanese journalist Toru Kubota.
At least 2,300 people have been killed since the coup amid the military clampdown and more than 15,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.
The junta blames anti-coup fighters for the deaths of almost 3,900 civilians.