China has arrested nine Tibetan Buddhist monks who have been accused of a bomb attack, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Chinese officials said the monks’ homemade bomb exploded in a government building in eastern Tibet on 23 March.

Xinhua news agency did not explain why the alleged bomb incident was not reported at the time.

News of the arrests came as Beijing continued to attack overseas critics of its crackdown in the Himalayan region.

Xinhua said the monks confessed to planting the explosive in Gyanbe township.

Beijing’s claims that the recent Tibetan protests were part of a violent campaign by the Dalai Lama, the region’s exiled spiritual leader, to disrupt Chinese rule in Tibet and sabotage the Beijing Olympics in August.

Bombing unreported

The alleged bombing is the first to be reported in Tibet since the anti-China protests began 10 March in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

After China’s crackdown, demonstrations by pro-Tibet activists – and other groups critical of Beijing’s human rights record – have haunted the Olympic torch relay in London, Paris and San Francisco this month, stirring anger in China.

Chinese President Hu Jintao took a hard line Saturday, saying the problems in Tibet were a purely internal affair directly threatening Chinese sovereignty.

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