"Deliberate" China restaurant blast kills nine

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BEIJING, Sep 17 (Reuters) An explosion at a restaurant in central China killed nine people and injured 25, Xinhua news agency reported today, citing police who said the blast appeared to have been deliberate.

The explosion occurred yesterday in Wenjiashi, Hunan province, when more than 30 people were dining at the invitation of a local villager who had been ''in dispute with the guests over family issues'', Xinhua said, citing an unnamed police spokesman.

''The explosion was believed to have been planned and the spokesman said it was a criminal case,'' the agency said.

The villager had invited the people to the restaurant, purportedly to apologise, according to the spokesman.

The spokesman described the injured as stable in hospital, but would not provide further details, Xinhua said.

Reporters had been barred from the blast site and investigations were continuing, the agency said.

REUTERS SKB RK1550

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