Chinese state media say police in Tibet have arrested 16 Buddhist monks and are seeking another three in connection with their alleged involvement in bomb attacks and plots in April.
A report by China's official Xinhua news agency Thursday quotes security officials in Tibet who say the monks were arrested last month and that the cases all occurred in an eastern part of the autonomous region in Mangkam county.
The report says three separate groups of monks attempted to blow up an electricity substation, a police post, a fuel depot, and a private home. The report says some of the bombings failed, while others apparently succeeded. No injuries were reported.
A member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, Kelsang Gyaltsen, tells VOA (Chinese Service) that one of the suspects was actually arrested earlier for opposing a government-led "patriotic re-education campaign," adding that the accusations were trumped up charges.
The Chinese government began a re-education campaign after violent unrest in Lhasa in March spread to other surrounding Tibetan areas.
Xinhua says the monks confessed to their involvement in the alleged bombings and said they were inspired by the unrest that hit Tibet's capital on March 14th.
Chinese authorities say 18 civilians and one police officer died after several days of rare peaceful protests in Lhasa turned violent on March 14th.
It is difficult to verify details of today's Xinhua report or the numbers of those who died in the unrest. China has barred reporters from Lhasa since shortly after the unrest occurred.
Tibet's Indian-based government-in-exile estimates at least 203 Tibetans were killed in a crackdown by Chinese forces on protesters in Tibet and neighboring provinces that followed the unrest in March.
Chinese police on Wednesday were reported to be on alert as Tibetan Buddhists began celebrating the Saga Dawa festival in Lhasa. The month-long festival marks the birth of the Buddha, according to the Tibetan calendar.
News reports from Lhasa this week said armored police were deployed on the city streets in preparation for the festival.
China also is readying for the Tibet leg of the Olympic torch relay. The torch will pass through Lhasa on June 19th.Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.