HK police raid 'bomb-making factory', 17 nabbed

HONG KONG • A "bomb-making factory" in Hong Kong stuffed with 2.6 tonnes of chemicals was raided by police yesterday and 17 people were arrested over a plot to force the city's government to close its border with mainland China.

Twenty-two properties across the Chinese territory were raided in an operation linked to the detonation of an explosive device in January.

Two Hong Kong groups claimed responsibility at the time, saying a shutdown of border crossings was needed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus to the city.

Three "half-built makeshift bombs" each containing 1.5 kg of explosives were found yesterday, according to Senior Superintendent Li Kwai Wah from the police's organised crime and triad bureau.

A small bomb was detonated on Jan 27 inside a public toilet at a hospital in Hong Kong's working-class district of Sham Shui Po, and attempts were made at border checkpoints in the city's north to set off two other devices the following week.

The suspects were also said to be linked to an unexploded device found in Shenzhen Bay, and more devices allegedly planted on an MTR train at Lowu station early last month, RTHK reported yesterday.

Senior Supt Li said the midnight raids ensnared what police called a "bomb-making factory" at a commercial building in Kowloon and netted 2.6 tonnes of nitrate mixture, sulphur, magnesium, sodium and other chemicals, along with six bottles of drain cleaner.

Police bomb disposal expert Alick McWhirter said officers also seized electrical circuits.

"It's not for me to speculate. However, we can say that it appears, potentially, a tragedy has been averted," Mr McWhirter said.

Hong Kong police chief Tang Ping Keung had warned of the rising risk of domestic terrorism as people try to pressure the government into yielding to the demands of activists after about seven months of anti-government protests in the city. The protests were triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition Bill .

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2020, with the headline 'HK police raid 'bomb-making factory', 17 nabbed'. Subscribe