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Explosion on public bus in China injures at least 8

March 8, 1997

BEIJING (AP) _ An explosion on a public bus injured at least eight people in a Beijing shopping district Friday, shaking a capital already jittery over a string of bus bombings in northwestern China.

The cause of Friday’s explosion was unknown, and it was not clear whether it was accidental or intentional. Terrorist attacks are almost unheard of in the Chinese capital. The three bombings last month occurred in the western Xinjiang region, whose large Muslim population wants more autonomy.

Emergency room workers at Jishui Tan Hospital said many of the people injured Friday were burned all over their bodies.

Police refused to confirm the explosion occurred but said they were investigating reports of a bombing.

A source told The Associated Press that public security officials said the explosion was caused by a bomb made of a water pipe stuffed with gunpowder and set off by a washing machine timer.

The officials made the disclosure at an emergency meeting with the security chiefs of central Beijing public buildings, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Witnesses interviewed at the Jishui Tan Hospital said the explosion happened when the route No. 22 bus opened its door after pulling up at a stop on North Xidan Avenue. A security guard on one of the avenue’s shopping malls said it happened as the bus pulled away from the stop.

Police closed off the street and ordered foreign reporters to leave the area. At least 100 police officers were on patrol.

Shards of glass littered the street outside a large shopping complex near the bus stop.

Security in the capital _ normally tight during the annual session of China’s legislature _ was strengthened this year following the death of senior leader Deng Xiaoping on Feb. 19 and the bus bombings in the northwest province of Xinjiang.

Three bus bombs exploded within minutes of each other in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, on Feb. 25 _ the last of the six days of official mourning ordered for Deng.

Police blamed that attack _ which killed nine people and wounded 68 _ on terrorists.

Xinjiang is populated mostly by Turkic-speaking Muslim groups who have grown increasingly resentful of Chinese domination. In the past year, Muslim separatist groups, mostly from the Uighur minority, have held gun battles with police and tried to assassinate pro-China officials.

Foreign reporters have been barred from Xinjiang and stopped by police from doing interviews in a Beijing neighborhood where many Uighurs live.

On Thursday, senior Chinese officials unveiled a revised criminal law and a new national defense law to provide legal backing for crackdowns against ethnic separatism.

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