Suspect, 22, killed in China kindergarten blast made bomb at home, report says

Police said to have found handwriting scrawled on wall in man’s home near the school referring to ‘death’ and ‘extermination’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 2:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 11:50pm

Chinese police have identified a 22-year-old male suspect they believe detonated a bomb outside a kindergarten in Jiangsu province on Thursday who was one of eight people killed in the explosion, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Investigators made the discovery after scouring the scene and surveillance videos as well as DNA analysis, according to the report.

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The suspect, identified only by the surname Xu, allegedly made the bomb in his apartment, the report said. He was originally from Quanshan district in nearby Xuzhou city and had dropped out of school after he was diagnosed with a neurological disorder, according to CCTV.

The report said he had been living in a rented apartment near the kindergarten and was working in the area, while police had found handwriting scrawled on a wall in his home referring to “death” and “extermination”.

However, some locals are still questioning why the young man would have attacked the school and how he managed to get the explosives. Bomb attacks are rare on the mainland as explosives are strictly managed.

Citing a witness surnamed Shi, state-run Global Times reported on its website that a gas cylinder had exploded at a roadside food stall. The blast sent people flying several metres into the air, Shi was quoted as saying.

Some 65 people were injured in the blast outside the Chuangxin Kindergarten in Feng county, which happened at about 4.50pm as many parents were waiting to pick up children from the school, witnesses said. No pupils or teachers from the kindergarten are known to have been hurt in the explosion.

The site was still sealed, with locals standing outside police lines, talking about the blast that shocked the country.

Wei Liqian, a farmer in Feng county who lives near the kindergarten, said he was visiting a flower shop about 100 metres away and ran over to the site after he heard the big bang. He said he saw many people lying on the ground and a lot of blood and debris. “The ground was very hot,” he said.

Authorities have described the blast as a criminal act, according to a report in state-run People’s Daily.

Four of the 65 people injured were still in a critical condition on Friday afternoon, state news agency Xinhua reported. Those in critical condition were being treated in Xuzhou, while others were being cared for in Feng county.

A head nurse at the Feng County People’s Hospital told CCTV they had treated 30 people with minor injuries, most of them with damaged hearing.

Young mother Song Lili, who sustained minor injuries, told CCTV that she blacked out during the explosion. “I was waiting to pick up my child. At that point the kids were still inside. I don’t know what happened – all I know is that I collapsed and fainted. By the time I woke up, the ambulances had arrived,” she said.

Another mother, Wang Pingli, said: “I was just chatting outside the gate … suddenly I heard the blast. I couldn’t make out what had happened. By the time I turned around, I saw a pile of people lying on the ground. I was terrified.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education plans to launch a nationwide security inspection of schools and asked education departments to work with police and the authorities to tackle security risks.

“All education departments must raise awareness to improve security at schools and control risk factors,” it said in a notice on its website.

Campus security would also be included in school management appraisals, the notice said. “Heads of [government] units and schools found with serious security issues will be held accountable,” it said.

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Mainland kindergartens have been targeted in previous years in attacks carried out by mentally unstable people or those bearing a grudge against neighbours or society.

The investigation into the blast is reportedly being headed by Huang Ming, deputy chief of the public security ministry.

The kindergarten is expected to remain closed until at least Monday as investigations continue, a staff member told the South China Morning Post. “Our teachers are still cleaning up the classrooms today and police have sealed off the crime scene,” said a staff member who did not wish to give his name. “But it won’t disrupt school activities because it happened just before a three-day mid-term break.”

He added: “We advise parents not to bring their kids to school until further notice. We will be in touch via our WeChat groups.”

A witness told the Post that the small township was still trying to recover from the shock of Thursday’s deadly blast. “Feng county has always been peaceful and quiet – there has never been even so much as a protest here since I was a kid,” he said. “We have never seen anything like this ... We are all very shaken by it still.”

He said the air smelt like petrol after the blast, which happened just minutes before the kindergarten was about to open the school gates and send pupils home. “The teachers and students are safe. Most of the victims were parents and children waiting with them outside the school gates.”