BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police arrested nine Buddhist monks suspected of bombing a government building in Tibet, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.
China has accused Tibetan groups of planning suicide attacks following last month’s riots and protests, but this would appear to be the first report of a bomb attack during the unrest.
Xinhua said the bombing occurred on March 23. It did not say whether any damage or deaths had been caused.
Xinhua said nine monks from the Tongxia Monastery in Gyanbe Township in Tibet had confessed to the crime.
“Cewang Yexe, one of the suspects, brought a homemade bomb with a motorcycle to the site and moved it into the office building with the help of others,” it reported. “They detonated the bomb and ran away.”
China announced earlier this month that police had seized guns, bullets and explosives in some Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. But violence reported until now had come in the course of rioting, when protesters torched shops in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa and pelted security forces with stones.
China has accused the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, of trying to “split the motherland” by inciting violence in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama has rejected claims that he orchestrated the deadly rioting in Lhasa and subsequent protests across Tibetan areas. He has spoken against the use of violence and asked China for talks about the problems in Tibet.
Chinese officials have warned that groups campaigning for independence in Tibet have joined Muslim Uighurs fighting for an independent “East Turkestan” in the northwest region of Xinjiang.
A mainland-backed paper in Hong Kong reported this week that Tibetan and Uighur forces were also collaborating with al Qaeda to target the Olympic Games in Beijing in August.
Human rights groups have said Beijing is using perceived terror threats, denied by exile Uighur and Tibetan groups, to justify tougher controls in these restive regions.
Reporting by Simon Rabinovitch; Editing by Catherine Evans