Fri, Dec 10, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Van blast, bomb searches disrupt main train station

ELECTION LINK? Police don't know if the explosion was connected to tomorrow's polls, while officials said four suspicious packages did not contain any explosives

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A policeman carefully removes a suspicious package from the North 2 gate of the Taipei Railway Station yesterday. Police found four explosive devices at the station but Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou said late last night that no explosives had been found.


The Executive Yuan yesterday condemned violence and called on everyone to remain calm before tomorrow's elections after a van exploded near the Taipei Train Station yesterday and four suspicious packages were found.

"We hope people stay calm and rational. We have asked the police to strengthen their routine patrols and to protect the safety of all candidates," said Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁).

Chen said he had been told that a note signed by "an anti-independence person from Hsinchu" was found in one of the packages. The note claimed that explosives had been planted at the train station and Taipei 101, he said.

However, no explosives were found in the world's tallest building and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said the packages removed from the train station had not contained explosives.

National security authorities held discussions with police officials on whether to activate the national security mechanism, but as of press time last night no announcement had been made.

Police are also investigating whether the suspicious packages were connected to the van blast.

Chin Yao-sheng (金耀勝), chief secretary of the Railway Police Office, said railway police found two suspicious objects, one wrap-ped in newspapers, near the North 2 exit of the Taipei Train Station at 4:40pm and two more near the South 3 exit at 5:10pm.

The areas were sealed off and the bomb squad was called in to remove the objects.

However, he was reluctant to confirm that a note had been found.

The search of the station was launched after a van exploded in the parking lot on the west side of the station shortly after noon.

According to Chin, railway police were deployed to the parking lot at 12:10pm after three loud explosions were heard. Flames and black smoke was seen billowing from the site.

Taipei City's Fire Department dispatched eight fire engines and two ambulances at 12:13pm and the fire was finally extinguished at 12:45pm.

The van was a nine-person vehicle that had been loaded with 11 20kg gas tanks. The explosion also destroyed two other vehicles parked nearby, Chin said.

No one was hurt, he said.

The van's license plate had been removed but police are trying to trace the owner through the engine number, Chin said. They are also reviewing surveillance tapes from the lot's cameras.

Chin hinted that the blast might be related to the elections.

"I'm afraid that someone is doing this on purpose and trying to sway the elections by creating a terrifying atmosphere," he said.

Yesterday was the second time this year that the train station has been targeted by a bomber.

In March, the "rice bomber," detonated a home-made bomb on a commuter train from Taipei to Chungli.

Although no one was hurt, the train schedule was interrupted for hours.

A suspect in the "rice bomber" case was arrested on Nov. 25 and admitted to 17 bombings and attempted bombings.

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