New needle attacks reported in China

By Associated Press
September 12, 2009

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BEIJING - Mystery needle attacks appeared to spread in China’s far western region as authorities arrested nine new suspects in three cities, officials said yesterday.

The suspects were recently detained in the Xinjiang region cities of Hotan, Altay, and Kashgar in connection with alleged attacks involving hypodermic needles, a press officer at the Xinjiang government press center in the provincial capital Urumqi said yesterday. He declined to give his name, as is customary, or provide more details.

Since last week, more than 500 people in Urumqi have reported attacks, though only about 100 showed evidence of being pricked. The stabbings led to mass demonstrations by tens of thousands of ethnic Han Chinese earlier this month against what they said was a government that can’t guarantee their safety.

The needle assaults have aggravated tensions in Xinjiang, where ethnic riots in July left nearly 200 dead.

The violence exposed the long-term rifts between Muslim Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority, and the Han Chinese, who are the majority group in China.

The official China Daily said out of 19 reported attacks in the three cities, six were confirmed.

Reports of the needle attacks emerged several weeks ago, though the size and scale remain unclear.