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Tibetan monks held for 'bomb plot'
Al-Jazeera, April 13, 2008
Lhasa, Tibet (China) -- Nine Tibetan Buddhist monks have been arrested for involvement in an alleged bomb attack on a government building in China's Tibetan region, the official Xinhua News Agency says.
<< Lhasa, the capital of Tibet province, was rocked by violent anti-Chinese protests last month [Getty]
The monks from the Tongxia monastery fled after the homemade bomb exploded at the building in Gyanbe township on March 23, and later confessed to planting the explosive, Xinhua said late on Saturday.
Xinhua did not explain why the alleged incident was not reported earlier, and it did mention any casualties or damage in the explosion.
A man who answered the phone at the Gongjue county "public security bureau" confirmed that nine suspects had been detained.
The man refused to give his name because he said he was not authorised to talk to the media.
A woman at the Tibetan regional public security department said she was not sure about the case because it was still under investigation.
The attack was the first alleged bombing reported in Tibet since anti-China protests began on March 10 in the capital, Lhasa.
The protests later turned violent, with hundreds of shops torched and Chinese civilians attacked.
China says 22 people were killed in the riots, while Tibet's government-in-exile, based in the north Indian town of Dharamsala, has claimed at least 140 people died.
More than 1,000 protesters were detained.
Hu Jintao, the Chinese premier, spoke on the issue for the first time on Saturday, during a meeting with Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, on the sidelines of a regional economic forum in Hainan.
"Our conflict with the Dalai clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, nor a human rights problem," Xinhua quoted Hu as saying, referring to supporters of the Dalai Lama.
"It is a problem either to safeguard national unification or to split the motherland."
Earlier this month, Beijing accused Tibetan independence forces of organising suicide squads of launching violent attacks against China.
Wu Heping, a spokesman for China's public security ministry, also claimed that searches of monasteries in Lhasa had uncovered a large cache of weapons.
On Friday, China labelled a group linked to the Tibetan government-in-exile a "terrorist organisation".
In recent weeks, massive demonstrations by pro-Tibet activists and other groups critical of China have accompanied the Olympic torch relay in London, Paris and San Francisco this month, stirring anger in China.
The Games are due to be held in Beijing in August.