Chinese authorities have arrested a suspect linked to 18 mail bomb explosions that killed at least seven people and wounded more than 50 during the past two days.
The suspect, identified only as 33-year-old M. Wei, was apprehended late Wednesday, hours before another explosion ripped through a six-story building in southern China.
That blast followed 17 others Wednesday that were detonated by explosives delivered in mail packages to 13 sites in Liuzhou, Guangxi province.
Authorities disclosed no possible motive for the attacks, but were quick to rule out a "terrorism act," instead treating it as a "criminal case." The explosions occurred amid a wave of unrest involving China's Uighur ethnic minority.
Thursday's blast, 16 hours after the first explosion Wednesday, hit a residential building in Liucheng, also in the Guangxi region, which borders Vietnam. Chinese state news agency Xinhua said it was not known whether there were any casualties.
Xinhua said the suspect had hired others to help deliver the bomb-laden packages.
"There were so many of them, and they were so loud," one hotel worker said of the Wednesday blasts. "They sounded like someone was blasting rocks in the mountains."
Police have urged residents of the city not to accept any suspicious packages and the postal system has suspended deliveries until Saturday over possible worries that there could be more bombs in the mail.
As of Thursday, there were at least 18 blasts, triggered by explosive devices hidden in express delivery packages. The last occurred early Thursday in a residential apartment, 16 hours after the first detonated Wednesday.
A local courier told the Epoch Times newspaper he witnessed the first blast, which tore down a three-story building in Dapu township. That was followed by another three blasts near the business center.
The witness said the township’s animal husbandry staff dormitory was the worst hit, with the compound’s eight buildings completely flattened.
An employee at the animal husbandry center told VOA that its main offices remain intact. “We still work shifts here while top leaders remain on site, dealing with the aftermath of the devastation. The blast site is about three to four kilometers away [from the offices],” he said without giving his name.
A supermarket manager, Zhang Qi, told China National Radio that shortly after the first blast, she received a phone call from a township government official, who cautioned her to beware of any suspicious packages. She soon discovered an unclaimed package with the sound of clock ticking inside. She then placed the parcel on the cashier’s counter while rushing to evacuate staff and shoppers. “Ten minutes later, it went off,” she said, adding there were no causalities except her supermarket had been turned into a dump site.
Residents said many areas were cordoned off while authorities located a total of 60 packages, which at that time were waiting to be processed by a bomb squad.
Other targets included the township government office, shopping malls, a hospital, prison and bus terminal in Dapu as well as other areas around Liuzhou, domestic media reported, citing local authorities.
Individuals in China have carried out bomb attacks over local grievances, but the scope of the Guangxi attacks and extent of the damages give the appearance of a more coordinated effort.
Even so, an analyst says the types of facilities apparently targeted and the fact the blasts hit a midsize city in a rural area of China suggest that the motivation is likely over local issues.
“Assuming it is a terrorist group, then they want to actually get the maximum propaganda out of it. Why hit a poor city? Hit one that is famous. Hit an iconic building,” said Tay Hao-giang, deputy president of the Institution of Fire Engineers’ Malaysia Branch.
With the investigation still in the early stages, and no group claiming responsibility, the attacks remain a mystery.