Soldier in Beijing opens fire, kills Iranian diplomat

September 20, 1994|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,Beijing Bureau of The Sun

BEIJING -- In another sign of China's deteriorating law and order, a soldier opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle on a crowded Beijing street this morning, killing a diplomat and his son, and wounding five others.

The soldier, who witnesses say was driving a jeep toward Tiananmen Square, was cut off by police on the city's second ring road near the diplomatic district about 8:30 a.m. Beijing time. He jumped out of his car and started shooting indiscriminately, witnesses said.

A spokesman from the Iranian Embassy said Yousef Mohammadi Pishknari, a political attache, and his son, Ahmad, were killed in the hail of bullets.

Another son, aged 12, was injured. The diplomat's two daughters are missing, the embassy spokesman said.

Mr. Pishknari was taking his children to school when the man opened fire, the spokesman said.

About 10 minutes after the shooting started, witnesses said, dozens of police vehicles arrived, sealing off the area and telling local radio stations that the ring road was closed due to an "accident."

Police did not inform the Iranian Embassy of the diplomat's fate. Officers chased away reporters.

The police removed the bodies and hauled away the cars, leaving large pools of blood, a baby's shoe and a lunch box on the recently built highway that circles downtown Beijing.

At least three women, one bleeding from a severe head wound, were taken off a public bus and driven by police to a nearby hospital.

Witnesses said the gunman fled toward a local market. Unconfirmed reports said that he was arrested about 11 a.m.

There was no immediate apparent reason for the gunman's actions, with police typically throwing a veil of secrecy over the events.

Some people said the gunman wanted to disrupt China's National Day on Oct. 1, when the nation will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.

Some Beijing residents speculated that he was possessed by the full moon, which is celebrated at tonight's Moon Festival.

Whatever the cause, the events point to China's increasingly chaotic social order, where guns are freely available and where increasing social pressures, such as unemployment and inflation, have led to a sharp increase in violent crime.

The Public Security Bureau reported earlier this month that organized crime was up 8 percent, with 71,335 gangs operating in the country.

Last month, officials said that they had confiscated 390,000 firearms over the past two years, including 7,200 assault weapons -- similar to the one used in today's attack.

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