Fri, May 16, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Truck blast rattles government district

FATAL EXPLOSION Police are trying to determine whether foul play was to blame for a blast outside the Ministry of Transportation and Communications

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Firefighters inspect damage to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei yesterday after a truck loaded with petroleum slammed into the structure.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

A truck carrying gasoline slammed into the front of the main building of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in the heart of the country's government district last night. The explosion killed the driver and damaged the first and second floors of the building, but no other injuries were reported.

"The truck driver, Wu Kuai-chin (吳桂慶), aged 46, was an employee of the Yu Li Traffic Company (友立交通公司) in Taoyuan County," a Taipei Police Department spokesman said. The truck was carrying 15 barrels of gasoline, he said.

"Wu burned to death immediately but there were no other causalities," the spokesman said, adding that police needed to investigate further to find out whether it was a premeditated attack or an accident.

The police department said it had ruled out the possibility of a terrorist attack.

The ministry is located just one block away from the back gate of the Presidential Office and the main building of the Ministry of National Defense.

Presidential Office spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) said that neither President Chen Shui-nian (陳水扁) nor Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) were in their offices at the time.

The Presidential Office called an emergency meeting last night to discuss how to improve security.

According to reporters who were inside the ministry building last night, the truck drove directly toward the front entrance of the building at about 7:28pm.

More than 200 soldiers, firefighters and policemen extinguished the blaze within 20 minutes, although the truck was left blocking the main entrance to the building for a few hours.

The owner of the Yu Li Traffic Company, who gave only his surname, Hsu, refused to comment on what might have motivated his employee to drive into the building.

"He is simply a driver to deliver goods and commodities," Hsu told reporters.

The police said that Wu had a criminal record that included convictions for drugs and violent crimes. He also had psychological problems, they said.

"There is no concrete evidence to prove that the explosion was the work of an organization," the police spokesman said.

Taipei prosecutor Hsueh Wei-ping (薛維平) said late last night that a brief investigation has revealed the explosion was a suicide attack.

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