China police suspect arson in deadly karaoke blaze

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BEIJING, Nov 21 (Reuters) Chinese police suspect a fire that ripped through a karaoke bar and foot massage parlour killing 11 people was arson, media said today.

The pre-dawn fire broke out in Chengde county in the northern province of Hebei, 230 northeast of Beijing, last week.

''An expert team from the Ministry of Public Security has reached an initial finding that the suspected cause of the fire was arson,'' the China News Service said, citing a local newspaper report.

The report said an investor in the karaoke bar was under house arrest.

''Foot massage'' parlours are immensely popular in China, offering ''therapeutic'' sessions of warm herbal water and foot rubs -- and sometimes prostitution.

In September, at least 12 revellers in the southern province of Jiangxi were killed in a blaze at a nightclub where they were celebrating the traditional Moon Festival.

In July, mine explosives illegally stored at a nightclub in the northeastern province of Liaoning detonated and killed at least 25 people, including teenage girls celebrating a birthday and passers-by on the street.

REUTERS SG VC0848

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