Confusion over the suicide bomber

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2012, 12:00am


Internet users and local residents are demanding the truth as conflicting accounts emerge about the identity of a suicide bomber in Yunnan's Qiaojia county, who set off an explosion on Thursday that killed three people and injured 16 others, allegedly in a protest against forced demolition.

Life appeared to have returned to normal in the remote, mountainous Baihetan township yesterday, but passers-by outside the community office where the blast took place were hesitant to talk openly to reporters about the tragedy, wary of plain-clothes security people. Some whispered, 'Follow me', and would only talk when far from the scene.

'We are sympathetic towards the bomber. When you find yourself in a dead end, you will do anything,' said one local woman. 'If I were [in the same situation as] the bomber, I would have done the same thing.'

On Thursday night, Xinhua quoted a Kunming newspaper as saying a woman set off explosives at 9am at the demolition bureau inside a community office in Baihetan after being asked to sign a house-relocation agreement.

But in another report, issued yesterday morning, Xinhua said the bomber was actually a 26-year-old man, Zhao Dengyong .

It quoted Qiaojia county police chief Yang Zhaobang as saying further investigations, including a review of closed-circuit TV footage of the scene, showed Zhao was the bomber and that he died in the blast. Zhao was from a different township in the county, Baogunao - 100 kilometres away - and 'his motive and whether it has anything to do with the demolition at the Huaqiao community still awaits investigation'.

They said that one of the dead and three of the injured were officials, while the other victims were villagers.

However, a full-page report in the Chuncheng Evening News, a local newspaper, yesterday gave a detailed description of the alleged female bomber.

It said the woman came from Pingzi village in Baihetan and was carrying a 15-month-old baby at the time.

She hid the explosives in the clothes she wrapped the baby in.

The report also said forced demolitions in the area had started in 2004 when the government began claiming land for a hydro-electric power station.

Villagers were upset that they were only offered compensation of 60,000 to 80,000 yuan (HK$73,800 to HK$98,400) per mu (666 square metres) of farmland, when they understood the government would be selling it for much more.

A young woman at the scene said yesterday that Thursday was the last day for affected residents to get early-bird demolition compensation, including a promise of resettlement housing. She said there were more than 100 people queuing up to sign the deal when the explosion occurred.

'Everybody was shocked and didn't know what to do,' she said.

She was about five to six metres from the blast and her hair and clothes were covered with the blood and flesh of victims.

The woman, who sympathised with the bomber, questioned the latest official account of the bomber's identity. 'Why would an outsider choose to come to this remote place to set off a bomb? And why choose the last day of the land seizure agreement?' she asked.

Many microbloggers questioned which version of events to believe.

Zhan Jiang , a communications professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said such online scepticism was normal because the public had lost confidence in things said by the government.

'It's difficult to say who's right and who's wrong,' Zhan said. 'But it's very difficult to cover up [events] these days.'