Bomb scare ahead of Taiwan’s presidential inauguration

Agence France Presse

Taipei, May 19:

A suspected bomb was found in front of Taiwan’s presidential office today, on the eve of President Chen Shui-bian’s inauguration, police said. The National Police Agency would not say if the device, which was destroyed after it was removed from a car, contained any explosives. The opposition Kuomintang’s (KMT) headquarters is located near the presidential office. No one has claimed responsibility for the device, as the police continued investigating the incident. Chen, of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be sworn in for another four-year term after winning the island’s March 20 elections by the razor-thin margin of just 0.22 per cent, or 30,000 votes.

The KMT is disputing the election results, claiming an election eve-shooting of Chen and his vice-president, Annette Lu, swung the vote in their favour. Chen and Lu were slightly injured when bullets grazed them as they were campaigning in an open-topped jeep in the southern city of Tainan on the eve of the election. The National Police Agency said they had taken into account various situations that could occur at the inauguration, which is to be guarded by at least 20,000 police and military police. Four people were arrested by police on weapons and drugs charges in the southern city of Kaohsiung where a gala inauguration celebration is to be held tonight.

Thirty-six gang leaders were arrested on Monday, as police responded to media reports that criminals may try to disrupt the inauguration. “The NPA has launched a crackdown on criminals from Monday through Wednesday to ensure the presidential inauguration would not be sabotaged,” it said. Top security officials said Chen will be protected by three sets of bullet-proof glass erected on the front of the podium outside the Presidential Office where he is to take oath. Fifteen national leaders plan to attend Chen’s inauguration, according to the foreign ministry. Twenty-six countries recognise Taiwan, which China regards as part of its territory waiting to be reunified by force if necessary. The DPP plans to invite at least 200,000 people to witness Chen’s inauguration despite a boycott by the opposition.