China Alleges Tibet 'Suicide Squads'

BEIJING (AP) -- China escalated its rhetoric against supporters of the Dalai Lama on Tuesday, accusing the Nobel Peace laureate's backers of planning suicide attacks.

The Tibetan government-in-exile immediately denied the charge, saying it remained dedicated to the nonviolent struggle long promoted by their Buddhist leader.

"Tibetan exiles are 100 percent committed to nonviolence. There is no question of suicide attacks. But we fear that Chinese might masquerade as Tibetans and plan such attacks to give bad publicity to Tibetans," said Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the government in exile in Dharmsala, India.

Public Security Ministry spokesman Wu Heping said searches of monasteries had turned up large numbers of weapons, including 176 guns, 13,013 bullets, 19,000 sticks of dynamite, 7,725 pounds of unspecified explosives, two hand grenades, and 350 knives.

"To our knowledge, the next plan of the Tibetan independence forces is to organize suicide squads to launch violent attacks," Wu said at a rare news conference on Tuesday. "They claimed that they fear neither bloodshed nor sacrifice."

Wu said police had arrested an individual who he claimed was an operative of the "Dalai Lama clique," responsible for gathering intelligence and distributing pamphlets calling for an uprising.

He said the man had admitted to using code words to communicate with his contacts, including "uncle" for the Dalai Lama, and "skirts" for the banned Tibetan snow lion flag.

Wu provided no details or evidence for any of the charges. He used the term "gan si dui," a rare term directly translated as "dare-to-die corps." The official English version of his remarks released by the Public Security Ministry translated the term as "suicide squads."

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama and his supporters of orchestrating anti-government riots in Lhasa on March 14 as part of a campaign to sabotage the Beijing Summer Olympics and promote Tibetan independence.

The 72-year-old Peace Prize winner has condemned the violence and urged an independent international investigation into the unrest and its underlying causes. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said he seeks autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule.

In recent days China has been showing decades-old propaganda films on state television portraying Tibetan society as cruel and primitive before the 1950 invasion by communist troops.

The government has sought to portray life as fast returning to normal in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa - the scene of the deadliest violence - although its landmark Buddhist monasteries of Jokhang, Drepung and Sera were closed and surrounded by troops, tour operators said.

Monks from the three temples backed peaceful protests that broke out March 10 on the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. The protests turned violent four days later and spread across a wide area of western China inhabited by Tibetans.

Beijing claims Tibet has been Chinese territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were essentially an independent country for much of that time.

Tibetan forces supported by the CIA battled Chinese troops in a largely ineffectual guerrilla war that was abandoned in the 1970s as Washington moved to boost relations with Beijing.

China has ignored international calls for mediation and refuses to discuss accusations of discrimination, repression and economic disenfranchisement raised by the Dalai Lama and overseas supporters - as well as complaints over alleged shootings and other excesses in the ensuing crackdown.

Chinese state media has focused overwhelmingly on the victims of attacks, releasing the names of 14 of the 18 civilians and one police officer it says were killed in the Lhasa riots. All but one were migrants from other parts of China, among the many who have flooded into the region in recent decades.

Xinhua said 12 were killed in arson attacks. The causes of death in two other cases were undetermined, and four bodies had yet to be identified.

Authorities earlier said three other people presumably jumped from windows to escape police.

Tibetan exiles say the toll from the violence plus the harsh crackdown afterward was much higher, leaving nearly 140 people dead.

In all, authorities say 623 people, including 241 police officers, were injured in the violence.

A total of 414 suspects were in custody in connection with the March 14 riots, and another 298 people had voluntarily surrendered, state media quoted officials as saying.

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Associated Press reporter Ashwini Bhatia contributed to this report from Dharmsala, India.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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