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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 13:55 GMT
China blast reward doubled
Blast victim
At least 30 people were injured
Chinese police have doubled the reward for the capture of the chief suspect behind four bomb blasts that left 108 dead in Shijiazhuang city.

But they also admitted that more than one person could be involved in the attacks which flattened a large residential block on Friday and damaged another three.

Apartment block
Four blasts rocked the city on Friday
The authorities are now offering 100,000 yuan ($12,000) for the arrest of Jin Ruchao, who is also suspected of murdering his girlfriend.

The explosions ripped through four residential blocks, mainly housing cotton mill workers, in the northern industrial city.

Newspaper reports have linked Mr Jin, 41, to all the targets.

Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po newspaper, which is close to the Beijing government, said on Tuesday that police had arrested a woman accused of selling 100kg of explosives to Mr Jin.

It added that police believed he was still hiding in the city, but officers in Shijiazhuang refused to comment.

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Mr Jin was reportedly a worker at the No. 3 Cotton Mill, until 1983 when he was dismissed for "hooliganism".

Chinese paramilitary police patrol the streets of Shijiazhuang
Security has been stepped up following the blasts
But he had kept a room in the factory's dormitory block, the building that completely collapsed.

Reports said his father and stepmother also lived there.

His ex-wife and her husband were said to live in another of the targets and her parents at a third.

Mr Jin is also accused of stabbing his girlfriend to death in south-west Yunnan province on 9 March and has reportedly served a 10-year jail sentence for rape.

Scapegoat

But the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy says Mr Jin is being made a scapegoat.

It quoted police services saying Mr Jin had no knowledge about explosives and said up to eight suspects were being hunted.

There has been speculation that the blasts could be the work of disgruntled factory workers who have been laid off as part of China's industrial restructuring.

Reuters news agency said China had shed 1.4m workers from the textile sector between 1998 and 2000 under a programme to cut production and boost efficiency.

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See also:

17 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China says 108 killed in blasts
16 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China blasts flatten apartments
15 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese leader sorry over school blast
07 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Fireworks blamed for China school deaths
02 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
China closes fireworks factories
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