Blasts at Chinese Internet Cafes Kill 2

By AUDRA ANG, Associated Press Writer

Explosions rocked two Internet cafes in central China, killing two people, injuring four and leaving the premises spattered with blood and broken glass, a local official and state media said Saturday.

Authorities refused to say if bombs were involved in the blasts, which occurred Friday night about 10 minutes apart at two cafes within about

33 feet of each other in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province. No motive was apparent for an attack on the premises.

Such incidents are rare in China, although explosives are widely available and reports of their use in criminal acts have risen in recent years.

"The casualties include two dead and four injured people," said a man who answered the telephone at the Hefei city government office. He refused to give his name or any other details.

"This is a serious matter and the cause is still being investigated," he said.

Chinese local government officials frequently refuse to identify themselves to reporters because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

China has the second largest Internet population after the United States, with more than 100 million users. Even the smallest towns have cybercafes that are often packed with young people chatting online or playing games.

An officer at the public security bureau in Hefei who gave only his surname, Li, said it "wasn't clear" if explosives had been detonated.

A woman who answered the telephone at the Hefei First Aid Center, where the injured were taken, would not release details on them.

The Ju Xing and Hao Yu Internet cafes are on Meiling Avenue, one of Hefei's main streets, the state-run Anhui Daily newspaper said on its Web site.

The blasts drew hundreds of onlookers to the site, it said. The official Xinhua News Agency said they happened about 9:30 p.m.

A woman who was walking past Ju Xing at the time of the explosion said she saw glass and cement spray from the cybercafe, according to Anhui Daily.

"When we heard the first explosion, we thought firecrackers were being set off," an unnamed resident was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "The second one went off about 15 minutes later. It was very loud. It sounded like a bomb exploded."

Another resident said panicked customers ran out after the first explosion. A woman in her 20s covered with blood screamed "What's happening?" before collapsing, the newspaper said. She was later helped away by passers-by.

Inside Ju Xing, "blood, glass and cement covered the floor," the report said.

News photos showed gloved officers sifting through the rubble, which included overturned chairs, computers, chunks of concrete and shards of blue glass. Iron bars on the windows -- a common security feature in Internet cafes -- had been twisted by the explosions and pipes were exposed in the ceiling.

Ju Xing had about 70 to 80 computers while Yu Hao had about seven small rooms that could accommodate 10 people each, Anhui Daily said.

The second explosion happened in one of the small rooms, leaving a 3.3 foot-wide crack in the ceiling, it said.

A customer, identified only by his surname Liu, said he was using a computer in Ju Xing when he heard a loud bang and felt pain in his face.

He said the inside of the room "was like a whirlwind," with glass and cement flying everywhere.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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