Two men held over shooting of Taiwan's President before vote

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The Independent Online

Taiwanese police said yesterday that they had arrested two men who might have been involved in the bizarre 19 March shooting that slightly injured President Chen Shui-bian one day before his re-election.

Taiwanese police said yesterday that they had arrested two men who might have been involved in the bizarre 19 March shooting that slightly injured President Chen Shui-bian one day before his re-election.

The men were caught with handguns and bullets similar to those used to shoot the President, an investigator, Wang Chong-jong, told reporters in the southern city of Kaohsiung. The arrests could revitalise the investigation that has gone several weeks without turning up any suspects or major leads. The apparent lack of progress has fuelled conspiracy theories that the President staged the shooting to give him an edge in the hotly contested vote.

After searching the suspects' homes, police found two handguns and 33 bullets with bronze and lead tips like the ones used in the presidential shooting, said Hou You-yi, director of the Criminal Investigation Bureau. One of the guns was German-made and the other was produced in an illegal workshop, police said. Mr Hou said the crime lab was analysing the weapons, and he stressed that the men were still not official suspects in the shooting. "We have no clear evidence to prove that these two were involved in the case," he said.

But Kaohsiung police said a couple other factors made them suspicious about the men. One, identified only by his surname, Chang, ran a pub near the shooting scene in the southern city of Tainan, Mr Wang said. Mr Chang, 30, was allegedly using the bar to deal in the drug ecstasy, he said.

"After the 19 March incident happened, the suspect named Chang avoided a police search and moved to Kaohsiung," Mr Wang said. "Now whether this has anything to do with this case, we'll investigate it."

Police showed a videotape of officers searching the suspects' home in Kaohsiung and finding plastic bags of ecstasy pills, bullets and a handgun that was carefully wrapped in newspaper. Also arrested was an 18-year-old man, surnamed Lin, police said.

Cable television news stations showed police video footage of Mr Lin resisting arrest on a Kaohsiung street. Officers wrestled him to the ground and sat on him as they slapped handcuffs on his wrists.

The President's stomach was grazed in the shooting, and his running mate, the Vice-President, Annette Lu, was hit in the knee as they drove past supporters in an open Jeep.

The losing candidate, Lien Chan, has suggested the shooting might have been staged. Mr Lien has said he won't accept the election result until the attack is explained.

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