Blasts in Chinese city kill one, injure eight

A damaged taxi on the street. Some of the explosive devices were placed in a garden near the party headquarters, shattering the windows of nearby vehicles when they went off.

One person was killed and eight injured in a series of explosions near a provincial office of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in northern Taiyuan city, local media reported.

Several explosions were heard yesterday morning outside the party headquarters in the capital city of northern Shanxi province, two hours by train from Beijing.

The blasts came amid heightened security before a key CCP meeting in Beijing starting this Saturday, and a little over a week after a car crash at Beijing's Tiananmen Square killed five and injured 40 people. The authorities have labelled the Oct 28 incident as a "terror attack" and blamed it on Muslim Uighurs from western Xinjiang region.

In the Shanxi incident, some of the devices were placed in a garden near the Shanxi party headquarters. They exploded around 7.40am yesterday, shattering the windows of nearby vehicles, state news agency Xinhua reported.

One of the eight hurt suffered critical injuries, it noted.

Shanxi police confirmed on its official microblog that a series of small devices were set off near the party headquarters. "Party and city leaders rushed down immediately to deal with it and the police are doing all they can to solve the case," they said.

Xinhua said the explosive devices might be homemade, going by the ball bearings and circuit boards found after the blasts.

Eyewitnesses Liu Guoliang and Zheng Quan told Xinhua that they were driving near the party building when they heard an explosion and saw smoke and sparks. They later heard another blast from a smoking minivan.

"Explosions sounded seven to eight times," a cleaner at the scene told the China News Agency. "What flew out from the blasts were nails and ball bearings."

Another man pointed to blood on the pavement and said that an old woman taking her grandchild to school was hit by flying debris from the blasts.

Pictures online showed a man lying face up beside a car near the Shanxi party building.

This was not the first time that explosive devices had been detonated near government or party buildings in China. Such incidents have become more common in recent years, usually carried out by people who cannot get redress for their grievances.

In 2011, synchronised explosions were reported outside three government buildings in Fuzhou City, central Jiangxi province. Three were killed and seven hurt.

The suspect Qian Mingqi was a 52-year-old farmer who had petitioned unsuccessfully for compensation for his demolished home. He died in the blasts.

In July, Shandong native Ji Zhongxing, 34, set off a self- made bomb at the Beijing Capital International Airport in a protest against Dongguan urban management officers who had allegedly hit him and left him paralysed eight years ago. Ji was given a six-year jail term last month but is appealing.

The Shanxi blasts took place even as Chinese officials vowed to boost security in the wake of the Tiananmen crash.

Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun this week ordered the police to be more alert ahead of the CCP's Third Plenum from Saturday to next Tuesday, when some 370 Central Committee members will meet in Beijing to hammer out the country's economic and social reforms.

hoaili@sph.com.sg

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