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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Red Blood Olymipcs: American Stabbed to Death in Beijing


BEIJING -- The male relative of an American men's volleyball coach was fatally stabbed today around 12:30 p.m. (local time) inside a major tourist site by a knife-wielding Chinese man who was also inside visiting the site, Chinese authorities said.

A female relative of the coach was seriously injured, and a female Chinese tour guide also suffered injuries from the attack by the same man, officials said.

The names of the American victims and the Chinese tour guide have not been released. Chinese officials identified the assailant as Tang Yongming, 47, who comes from the eastern city of Hangzhou, and authorities said the man jumped to his death from the second floor of the tower after the attack.

The alleged attack took place inside the Drum Tower, a 13th century imperial structure just north of the Forbidden City. The motive for the attack remains unclear.

US Embassy and Olympic committee officials said they were awaiting details of the incident. Chinese and US authorities have said so far there is no indication the victim was attacked because of nationality or because of the Olympics.

Yesterday afternoon outside the Drum Tower, a popular tourist attraction surrounded by traditional alley-style hutong dwellings, some residents and shopkeepers said they heard that the Chinese man may have gotten into an argument with the American before stabbing him and that he never jumped outside the tower. Others said they heard about a suicidal jump. Because the alleged attack took place inside the tower, none of the local residents or store owners said they witnessed anything that triggered the incident other than ambulances with sirens arriving around 12:30 p.m.

"When I arrived to work at noon, nothing had happened," said a cleaning lady at a linen store.

Many neighbors declined to discuss anything about what they know or saw, amid the swarm of international media that arrived at the scene within a couple of hours of the alleged incident.

"We know some things but we can't talk," said one resident. Throughout this site, police officers were stationed, as well as neighborhood security volunteers who seemed to be watching closely who was talking to reporters.

One neighbor, who gave only his surname as Zhang, said he is deeply saddened by the attack given that it took place just after China staged a glorious opening ceremony on Friday. He said attacks by Chinese on others are very rare in Beijing.

"In normal life, these kinds of things seldom happen," he said.

Though he had no first-hand knowledge of what happened, Zhang said he heard the attacker jumped to this death, and probably has "psychological problems."

Richard Buangan, spokesman for the US Embassy in Beijing, said his office is working with Chinese authorities and the victim's families. Embassy officials were immediately on scene, and currently some are with the victim's families in the hospital. It remains unclear the degree of injury to the two other Americans -- one of whom was another relative of the coach and another a tour guide -- and where they are currently being treated.

Darryl Seibel, a US Olympic Committee spokesman, said he has no confirmation that the Americans who were visiting the Drum Tower were related or married. He said they were not wearing any clothes that would have identified them as Americans.

"It's far too early to suggest that this has anything to do with the Olympics taking place," he said. "We have no idea what the motivation is."

The US men's volleyball team is scheduled to play its first game at 10 p.m. (local time) today against Venezuela.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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