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Syringe suspects seized in Xinjiang
By Cui Jia and Cai Ke (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-11 06:58

Urumqi: Nine suspects believed to be responsible for syringe attacks in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region communities of Hotan, Altay and Kashgar are in custody.

The arrests follow reports of syringe attacks in several cities in the autonomous region after a spate of similar attacks in the region's capital, Urumqi, that led to massive protests.

Six of the suspects were caught in Hotan, according to the Hotan public security bureau on the local government's website on Wednesday.

Of the six, two have already been officially detained.

By Sunday, nine syringe attacks had been reported in Hotan, but only three had been confirmed, the bureau said.

Among the three hospitalized victims, two were Han Chinese and the other was Uygur.

So far, none of the victims is believed to have contracted a disease or been exposed to poisoning.

Police are offering a 5,000 yuan ($735) reward for information about the attacks, Hotan police said.

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An official from the public security bureau of Altay region confirmed on Tuesday that two syringe attack suspects were in custody there.

"Five possible syringe attacks were reported to the public security bureau by Tuesday, four of which were false alarms. The other case is genuine. The victim did not show any abnormal symptoms," said Ahlebeck, deputy director of the public security bureau of Altay region.

Ahlebeck said police apprehended a 35-year-old and a 21-year-old in connection with the attack. Further investigation is under way.

A syringe attack suspect was caught on Monday in Kashgar, according to Wang Jianhua, spokesperson for the local government.

"We have received five syringe attack reports from Han residents, of which three turned out to be false alarms," Wang said.

There were no other confirmed reports of syringe attacks in other parts of Xinjiang. Ten such attacks were reported in Ili and 10 more in Hami, but none have been proven.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Urumqi, last week calling for an end to the attacks.

Local authorities said late Tuesday that police had apprehended 45 suspects in connection with the recent flurry of syringe attacks in Urumqi. By Monday, the prosecution of eight of them had already begun.

The attacks, which have targeted innocent people, are believed to have been orchestrated in a bid to scare residents and create further unrest, said Du Xintao, an official with the regional public security department.

"The attacks are terror attacks," Du said.

By last Friday, Urumqi health and police authorities had confirmed 531 people had been stabbed by hypodermic syringes in the city, 171 of the victims showed obvious signs of the attacks. The majority of the victims were from the Han ethnic group. Others were from ethnic groups including Uygur, Hui and Kazak.

Xinhua contributed to the story