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Suspect in deadly car attack on Chinese town square ‘wanted to take revenge on society’

Man described by local authorities as ex-convict who harboured a grudge against society

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 10:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 9:30pm

At least 11 people were killed and 44 others wounded after a sports utility vehicle ploughed through a busy town square in central China on Wednesday evening.

The driver of the Land Rover also attacked people with a knife and a spade at the square in Lishui in Hunan province.

Local media reports identified a man detained at the scene as 54-year-old Yang Zanyun.

The local government said in a statement on Thursday that the suspect in the case has a long criminal record with previous convictions for selling drugs, theft and attacking people, which caused him to harbour a desire for revenge on society.

The incident happened at about 7.40pm in the town’s central plaza.

Witnesses told news website Thepaper.cn that a red vehicle suddenly drove into crowds of people who had been dancing and walking around in the square, causing mass panic.

Several bystanders posted graphic video footage on Chinese social media. In the videos, dozens of people can be seen lying on the ground, some in pools of blood, while panicked crowds and emergency services personnel gather around them.

China has experienced a string of violent attacks in public places in recent years, including bombings and stabbings, as well as arson attacks on buses and buildings.

Occasionally, the attacks are attributed to militant separatists, though such incidents have become less common in recent years amid a stifling security crackdown.

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In 2013, an SUV ploughed through a crowd in front of Beijing’s Forbidden City before crashing and catching fire.

Five people, including the vehicle’s three occupants, were killed in the attack which police blamed on Uygur extremists inspired by jihadist ideology.

More commonly though, the attacks have been attributed to mental illness, alienation from society or a desire to settle scores.

Chinese law restricts the sale and possession of firearms, and mass attacks are generally carried out with knives or home-made explosives.

Many of those incidents have occurred outside schools, with up to 20 children being killed in a string of attacks in 2010.

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In June this year two children were killed and a woman and boy were injured when a man attacked them with a knife outside a school in Shanghai.

The suspect arrested over that attack was also reported to have told police he wanted to take revenge on society.

Last year, police said a man set off an explosion at the front gate of a kindergarten in eastern China, which struck as relatives gathered to pick up their children at the end of the day, killing eight people.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and Reuters