Suspect held for garrison rifle theft
Vivien Pik-Kwan Chan
A man accused of snatching a rifle from a guard at a Shanxi garrison was arrested yesterday.
The theft had sparked a nationwide manhunt, serious concern within the military and a security alert at the recent National People's Congress in Beijing.
Jia Yi, 23, from Feixian county in Shandong province, was arrested by army and police officers and allegedly confessed to stealing the gun and six bullets two weeks ago.
The theft happened at Wucheng garrison in Taiyuan, 500km from the capital. The area is part of the Beijing military region.
'He confessed to police that he attacked the guard at the gate of the garrison at dawn on March 9, causing him serious injury, and then escaped with a rifle and six bullets,' Xinhua said.
After the rifle was taken, Beijing stepped up security at the Great Hall of the People, on Tiananmen Square and at hotels where NPC delegates were staying during the session from March 5 to 15.
Beijing sources said public security authorities ordered all units to closely monitor checkpoints and railway stations, to prevent any attempts to sabotage the annual conference.
The suspect also attempted to rob a petrol station at dawn last Thursday, firing his gun twice, but there were no injuries, Xinhua said.
The rifle and the remaining bullets were found at a construction site in Taiyuan, the provincial capital.
Police sources said Jia had committed other crimes previously, but did not elaborate.
The army reacted with alarm to the security breach, and in co-operation with police set up a task force to hunt down the culprit.
The army offered a 30,000 yuan (HK$28,200) reward for information, but it remained unclear if any informant had collected the money, sources said.
'Such a violent attack on a military officer and the illegal seizure of a gun have seriously endangered social stability and poses an enormous threat to safety and public security,' a circular posted in the garrison said.
Military authorities have called for heightened security measures in all garrisons.
Meanwhile, public security officials have called for more efforts to crush violent crime, saying they are disturbed by the rising number of criminal offences and the threat from triads.