BEIJING - A six-year-old boy in China had his eyes gouged out, blinding him for life, reports said on Tuesday, in a gruesome attack that may have been carried out by a ruthless organ trafficker.
Family members found the boy covered in blood some three to four hours after he went missing while playing outside, according to a television report posted online.
The child's eyes were found nearby but the corneas were missing, reports said, implying that an organ trafficker was behind the harrowing attack.
Police offered a 100,000 yuan (S$21,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of the sole suspect, who they said was a woman.
"He had blood all over his face. His eyelids were turned inside out. And inside, his eyeballs were not there," his father told Shanxi Television.
Its report showed the heavily-bandaged boy being taken from an operating theatre and placed in a hospital bed, writhing in agony as family members stood at his bedside weeping.
The boy was drugged and "lost consciousness" before the attacker removed his eyes, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said on its account on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
Internet users were outraged by the attack on the boy - who had a cleft palate - in Fenxi, in the northern province of Shanxi on Monday.
"This is extraordinarily vicious," said one Sina Weibo user. "How and why could someone be so cruel?" "A truly tragic boy," said another poster.
About 300,000 patients in China need transplants each year, but only about 10,000 people can get them due to a lack of donors, state media said.
Seven people were jailed last year when a teenager sold a kidney for an illicit transplant operation and used the proceeds to buy an iPhone and iPad.
Child organs are usually more expensive on the black market, an organ trafficker told Sina Internet news portal in 2010, as "most people think the younger the donor is, the better the quality of organs".