Connect to share and comment

Bomb explodes meters from Myanmar's radical Buddhist monk Wirathu

Wirathu, a radical Buddhist monk who has been accused of stirring religious tensions in Myanmar, had a close shave when a bomb exploded yards from him.

Myanmar bomb blast wirathu buddhist monkEnlarge
Controversial Myanmar monk Wirathu (C) attends a meeting of Buddhist monks at a monastery outside Yangon on June 27, 2013. A bomb exploded meters away from Wirathu on July 22, 2013, although he was unhurt by the blast. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Myanmar's radical Buddhist monk narrowly escaped injury when a bomb exploded just yards from where he was delivering a speech late Sunday.

Wirathu, who once referred to himself as "the Burmese bin Laden," has been accused of fanning religious tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.

He blamed Muslim extremists for the blast in Mandalay, and said he believed it was meant to silence him.

Police said it was too early to speculate the reason for the explosion. The blast, which injured five people, was thought to have come from a homemade bomb.

Most of the victims of the religious violence plaguing a gradually reforming Myanmar have been from the country's minority Muslim population. At least 237 have been killed in the clashes between angry Buddhist mobs and Muslims, and 150,000 have been displaced.

Wirathu, who leads the 969 movement, has been seen as inciting violence against Muslims.

As GlobalPost reported in March:

"Wirathu’s rhetoric is flush with conspiracy and paranoia. He claims that Muslim merchants receive cash injections from Middle East oil state brethren and use these funds to undercut Buddhist rivals. He claims Muslims have infiltrated the camp of Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s widely revered Nobel Peace Laureate and parliamentarian, along with other respected freedom icons."

The nominally civilian government, led by President Thein Sein, has been criticized for not doing enough to protect the country's Muslim minority. On a recent European tour, Thein Sein called claims of "ethnic cleansing" in Myanmar a smear campaign.

More from GlobalPost: Islamists claim new 'jihadis' will avenge Myanmar's Rohingya