March 18, 2009 / 4:22 AM / 10 years ago

Case packed with TNT found in Tibet capital: report

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese security forces recently destroyed a case filled with explosives found in Tibet’s regional capital of Lhasa, and broke up a group behind an attempted attack, an official newspaper said Wednesday.

Tibet this month passed sensitive anniversaries marking 50 years since the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s Buddhist leader, fled into exile, and one year since deadly protests and riots against Chinese rule erupted across Tibetan areas.

The People’s Armed Police News, newspaper of China’s domestic security troops, said “one day in early spring” paramilitary patrolling Lhasa’s railway station came across an abandoned pink suitcase.

Checks showed the case was “packed with TNT explosives,” said the newspaper. It did not say how big the case was.

“After a robot safely dismantled it, the explosives were successfully destroyed in just 14 minutes, avoiding a bloody incident,” it said.

But a spokesman for the Tibet Autonomous Region government denied the report when reached by telephone and asked to comment.

The report did not specify the date of the incident, and “one day in early spring” may cover February or March.

Beijing has imposed a clampdown in Tibetan areas to deter fresh unrest and has accused supporters of the Dalai Lama, whom it brands a separatist, of seeking to foment protests and riots.

The Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has condemned violence, and Tibetan exile groups say Beijing exaggerates the threat of violence from discontented Tibetans to justify its harsh security controls.

The newspaper said security forces broke up a group linked to the case, but did not provide further details on their identity.

“The public security forces followed the clues and joined hands with the People’s Armed Police to strike down an illegal organization threatening Tibet’s security,” it said.

The overseas edition of the People’s Daily, official newspaper of the Communist Party, said punishment of rioters in Tibet was like the U.S. reaction to al Qaeda after the September 11 attacks and called the Dalai Lama a tool of hostile Western forces in the latest broadside against Tibet’s spiritual leader.

“If the United States can throw the perpetrators of September 11 into jail, why can’t China convict these people for attacking, smashing, arson and murder?” the newspaper said in a front-page commentary.

“This contrast shows the double standards of bullying American politicians.”

Last year’s riots in Lhasa broke out after security forces moved against protesting Buddhist monks. These clashes then sparked protests and riots across the region.

Exiled Tibetan groups say more than 200 people died in the subsequent confrontations and crackdown. China has rejected those claims and said it used minimal force.

Editing by Nick Macfie

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