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Attack on children horrifies Chinese

| April 30, 2010 9:00 PM

BEIJING (AP) - A farmer attacked and injured five kindergarten students with a hammer in eastern China before burning himself to death early today in the latest in a string of horrific assaults on children at Chinese schools, state media reported.

The attacker used a motorcycle to break down a gate of the school in Shandong province's Weifang city, struck a teacher who tried to block him and then used the hammer to attack the children, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The assailant then grabbed two children before pouring gasoline over his body and lighting himself on fire, but teachers at the Shangzhuang Primary School were able to pull the children away to safety, Xinhua said. The man died, but none of the children had life-threatening injuries, Xinhua said.

Xinhua identified the attacker as Wang Yonglai, a local farmer, but had no further details.

China has been reeling from a series of attacks on schoolchildren, with the latest incident coming just a day after a 47-year-old unemployed man rampaged through a kindergarten in Taixing city in Jiangsu province, wounding 29 students aged 4 or 5 years old, five of them seriously.

Experts called that a possible copycat rampage triggered by similar incidents Wednesday and last month. They said the wave of school attacks falls amid poor care for the mentally unstable and growing feelings of social injustice in the fast-changing country.

On Wednesday, a man in the southern city of Leizhou broke into a primary school and wounded 15 students and a teacher in a knife attack. The suspect, Chen Kangbing, 33, was a former teacher who had been on sick leave since 2006 for mental health problems.

The assault left fourth and fifth graders with stab wounds on their heads, backs and arms, but none was in life-threatening condition.

That attack came the same day a man was executed for stabbing eight children to death outside an elementary school last month in the southeastern city of Nanping.

The attack in March shocked China because eight children died and the assailant had no known history of mental illness. At his trial, Zheng Minsheng, 42, said he killed because he had been upset after being jilted by a woman and treated badly by her wealthy family. He was executed Wednesday, just a little over a month after his crime.

Another attack earlier this month occurred when a mentally ill man hacked to death a second grader and an elderly woman with a meat cleaver near a school in southern Guangxi, and wounded five other people, including students.

After a 2004 attack at a school in Beijing that left nine students dead, the central government ordered tighter school security nationwide. Regulations that took effect in 2006 require schools to register or inspect visitors and keep out people who have no reason to come inside.

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