Explosions 'not linked to terror or Games'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2008, 12:00am

Kunming security chief rejects rumours

Police in Kunming investigating Monday's two fatal bus explosions have not found any links between the blasts and terrorism or next month's Olympics, a top city security official said yesterday.

A day after the blasts that killed two people and injured 14 during the morning rush hour in the capital of Yunnan province , police are offering a cash reward of 100,000 yuan (HK$114,349) for information that can help solve the case.

At a press conference yesterday, Du Min, head of the Kunming public security bureau and the city's vice-mayor, said explosions of that type had not been seen in 30 years and stressed security had been stepped up on public buses and in other public areas.

'We're still carrying out investigations, [but] at the moment, this case has not been linked to Tibet separatists or any particular person. It's also not linked to the Beijing Olympics,' said Mr Du, who called on residents to report any suspicious people or items.

He also dismissed a suggestion that the fatal explosions were related to Saturday's riots in Menglian county, also in Yunnan, over a disagreement between rubber farmers and their buyers.

'The nature of these two cases is different,' Mr Du said.

Speculation is rife over the reason behind the explosions, which came less than three weeks before the opening of the Olympics on August 8. It also followed a mass protest in Wengan county in Guizhou province last month over police handling of the investigation into a teenager's death.

Experts have said that such disturbances would only further heighten the concern of Beijing authorities, who have repeatedly warned of terrorist attacks despite the stringent security measures that are in place.

Although security officials have been quoted by local newspapers as saying that time bombs were placed under passenger seats on the buses, Mr Du said they were still trying to find out what kind of explosive devices had been used.

He also clarified that there had been only two blasts, responding to some media reports that there had been more.

Passengers on the first bus said a short man had left a black plastic bag behind when he exited before the explosion, local media reported.

Both explosions involved Route No54, with the first occurring on a bus at the Panjiawan stop on West Renmin Road at 7.10am. The second was nearby, at the junction of Changyuan Road and West Renmin Road at 8.05am.

Of the 14 injured, one was released yesterday and another who suffered serious injuries was in the Intensive Care Unit of the First Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical College but was no longer listed as being in critical condition.

Witnesses said security was tight yesterday at the sites where the explosions took place, with police being seen at various spots carrying out frequent checks of passers-by and passengers waiting at bus stops.

The number of passengers taking public buses on route No54 dwindled during morning rush hour. Many passengers and drivers said they were keeping clear of the area out of fear.

A Ms Li, who waited for a No54 bus at the Panjiawan stop, told the website yunnan.cn that she was very scared after the explosions.

'I feel very unsafe when I go out,' she said, adding that she would keep an eye out for any suspicious people.

While stringent inspections had been carried out on its buses, an employee of the Kunming public transport company that operated Route 54 admitted they had safety concerns, though service had returned to normal. The explosions received widespread coverage on the mainland media, with many organisations trying to get more details of what actually happened.

The Southern Metropolis Daily reported that police were investigating a text message warning residents of Kunming to avoid taking bus routes 54, 64 and 84 ahead of the blasts, as reported by some residents. But the report was denied by Mr Du, who said it was not true.