Hong Kong police defuse homemade bombs left in school grounds designed ‘to kill and to maim’

A police officer wears a bomb suit during a media tour of the Hong Kong Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) depot in Hong Kong on Dec 6, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong police said they defused two homemade nail bombs discovered in the grounds of a school, and are investigating whether the devices were linked to political unrest in the city.

Bomb disposal officers rushed to Wah Yan College in Wanchai district after a janitor noticed the devices, police said.

"The bombs were complete, fully functional and ready to be used," senior bomb disposal officer Alick McWhirter told reporters on Monday night (Dec 9).

McWhirter said the two devices contained a total of 10kg of high explosives and that the remote control bombs were designed to be set off using a mobile phone.

Nails had been added to the bombs, which used a homemade ammonium nitrate based explosive, to increase their destructiveness.

"Both of these devices have only one function, to kill and to maim people," Mr McWhirter said.

Police said they believed the college was not the target for the bomb maker and that the devices were likely being hidden there for later use.

The discovery comes with Hong Kong engulfed by six months of sometimes violent protests - although the last three weeks have seen a significant drop-off in clashes and a massive largely peaceful march on Sunday.

Millions have marched in protests fuelled by years of growing fears that authoritarian China is stamping out the city's liberties.

Over the last six months, hardline protesters have used bricks, petrol bombs and even bows and arrows in their weekly confrontations with police who have fired nearly 16,000 rounds of tear gas and 10,000 rubber bullets.

Three protesters have been shot with live rounds, all have survived their injuries.

Police said a small remote-controlled explosive device was detonated during a protest clash in the district of Mongkok in October. No one was injured by that device which also used a mobile phone.

Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah said police were investigating whether the two devices were linked.

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The discovery of a bomb came a day after police said a semi-automatic pistol and more than 100 rounds of ammunition were discovered in a raid on protesters.

Five people in their early 20s appeared in court on Monday charged with intent to wound and were denied bail.

Two were also charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.

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