The New York Times reports:
Police officials say that a man who died Christmas Eve after trying to plant a bomb at a coffee shop in the southwestern city of Kunming was also responsible for a pair of bus bombings there in July that killed two people and wounded 14, state news media reported Sunday.
The man, Li Yan, reportedly confessed his role in the earlier bombings as he lay on his deathbed in the hospital, the official news agency Xinhua quoted the police as saying.
Investigators, who later found explosive devices and a homemade gun in Mr. Li’s apartment, said they had also matched DNA found at the scene of both bombings.
As unbelievable as the deathbed confession may sound, Chris Horton, editor of GoKunming.com seems to buy it. In an email to Shanghaiist, he opines:
Regarding the deathbed confession, while it may sound too convenient, I think it is quite possibly true for several reasons: [Salvador’s co-owner Kris Ariel] was at the hospital and saw the guy on his deathbed (his phone was used to record the confession, which he was not allowed to be present for), in the last decade Kunming has only had bombings on the buses and at Sal’s – I think it’s highly probable that whoever did one did the other as there just aren’t many bombings here, plus the police claim to have matched the materials found at the guy’s home with the bombs at Sal’s and on the buses.
I don’t rule out the possibility that the police are full of shit, but I have spent some time at the station since the bombing… and I’ve been impressed by the professionalism of the local police. Never thought I’d say that.
Anyway, all we can do is hope that this guy was a lone actor and that things won’t be exploding here in the foreseeable future.
GoKunming.com further reports:
The Kunming Public Security Bureau held a press conference Saturday afternoon to address the recent bombing of Salvador’s Coffee House, which has been connected to the public bus bombings in Kunming in late July of this year.
During the press conference, the identity of the bomber was revealed for the first time. 30-year-old male Li Yan (李彦), a resident of the northeast Yunnan city of Xuanwei who had only received education up until middle school, was identified as the bomber.
Li had been sent to prison for 9 years in 2001 for his involvement in robbery and assault. He served five years in a prison in Yiliang county, where he spent much of his time involved in electrical repairs, an experience which is believed to have aided his bombmaking.
Members of the special task force created in response to the Salvador’s bombing went to Li’s residence in Xuanwei, where they reportedly discovered ammonium nitrate and bomb casing materials that matched the samples taken from the Salvador’s bomb, which apparently detonated prematurely, blowing the lower half of Li’s body off. Li died two hours later at Honghui Hospital.
The bombmaking materials found in Li’s residence in Xuanwei also matched samples taken from the bombs used on two buses on Renmin Xi Lu that had been bombed in July, killing two and injuring 14. In addition to 1.1 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, police also found homemade gun with 21 rounds of ammunition at the man’s home.
Li’s motive in bombing Salvador’s and the buses is still unclear. Police reportedly obtained a deathbed confession from the man moments before he died, but details of what he said – other than confessing to the bus bombings – have not been released. It is also unclear whether other individuals were involved in either the bombing of Salvador’s or the bus bombings.
Many early Chinese media reports about the explosion at Salvador’s were highly inaccurate, making claims that a gas canister had exploded in the kitchen, that Li was a Salvador’s employee, that a man had been cooking food with gas in front of the restaurant, etc.
Salvador’s owners Colin Flahive and Kris Ariel give their account on what happened on Dec 24 in the report published by GoKunming.com:
At about 10:30 in the morning on December 24th, I was sitting downstairs at our internet port. A friend came in, and she was looking for Christmas gifts, so I suggested that she go with him to see all of the stuff Kris and I had bought in Thailand to sell in our new shop. We had just begun walking down the street when we heard a large explosion. Looking back to the restaurant, we could see people running out of Salvador’s.
I ran in as quickly as I could and went straight to the gas line to turn it off. I had assumed that our gas line had exploded. It was then that I saw the body of the individual on the ground near the table closest to the bathroom.
The scene was more gruesome than I wish to detail. My initial feeling was that it was one of our workers. That is what continues to haunt me the most – the feeling that we had caused the death of one of our workers who are all so close to us. Luckily, such was not the case. A couple of seconds later, all of our girls came running out of the kitchen. The explosion had not been very intense there.
Three Korean customers and one Chinese customer were seated very close to the explosion. All of them, all of our staff, and all of the other customers upstairs were miraculously uninjured. From there I made my way to the electric box to cut off the electricity which is when I noticed many 100 RMB bills scattered all over the place. The money did not belong to any of our staff or customers.
Everyone made it outside safe other than the one who was the victim of his own malicious attempt. Kris made it from home to the restaurant within minutes. Outside we all comforted each other while the ambulance staff went inside. They dragged out what they could of the body and loaded it into the ambulance. They then made Kris accompany the ambulance to the hospital because they were under the impression that the man was one of our staff.
Somehow, the man was still alive when they got to the hospital, and he was interrogated before eventually expiring. Kris unfortunately had to bear witness to all of this. In fact, they even confiscated his phone to use as an audio recorder for the interrogation.
At a press conference on Saturday, the police tied the bomber of Salvador’s to the bomber of the public buses back in July. There was DNA evidence that links both crimes, and bomb materials were found at the home of the suspect that are the same as the bombs used on the busses and our cafe. The suspect had served several years in prison for an assault-related crime.
For most expats who have lived in China for some time, it’s very easy to be skeptical of the media, and this report seems so convenient to solve two crimes in one shot. But from our experiences with this investigation we both feel very confident in Saturday’s report. In addition, we thought you’d all like to know that the police have treated us quite well and have been extremely professional with the handling of the investigation.
It was also revealed that the bomb was placed in the bathroom and appears to have exploded prematurely. The night of the 24th is perhaps the busiest night of the year for cafes in the neighborhood, and I can only assume that the bomber had higher aspirations than the outcome. We are lucky in so many ways, it’s really quite difficult to talk about.
For now, our greatest concern is the mental and physical health of our workers. We have been spending time together discussing the event and making sure that everything gets talked through. Everyone is in much better spirits now, and we hope to move on. The future of our business is at present uncertain, but you have not heard the last of Salvador’s.
Thank you for all of your kind words and support.
Love and Peace,
Colin and Kris
Shanghaiist: Cafe bombed in Kunming
NYT: China Says Man Confessed to Bus Bombings
GoKunming: Bomber tied to cafe and bus bombings, identity revealed