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A man attacked an elementary school in central China on Monday, killing at least eight students and wounding two others, police said.

The attack occurred around 8 a.m. on the first day of the semester at the school in Chaoyangpo village of Enshi city in Hubei province, the local police said.

But in a sign of the sensitivity of the situation, the Enshi police removed a public statement they had posted online early Monday outlining basic details of the attack. The only official statement remaining is one posted on Monday by the Enshi government, which said that 10 students had been wounded and did not mention the deaths.

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Police said they had arrested a suspect, whom they identified only as a 40-year-old man surnamed Yu. The government statement did not mention the method of attack or a possible motive.

It said the wounded children had been taken to hospitals for treatment. There was no immediate word on their conditions.

Calls to the Enshi public security bureau Tuesday night went unanswered.

A report published online on Monday by the Guangzhou-based news outlet Southern Weekly, citing employees at a local prison, said the suspect was released last year after serving an eight-year sentence for attempted murder.

That report, which has since been taken down, said the man had stabbed his girlfriend 40 times because of “emotional problems.”

The elementary school attack comes at a sensitive time for the ruling Communist Party, which has begun tightening security across China in preparation for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct. 1.

Since 2018, there have been attacks on schools in Shaanxi province, Hunan province and in the cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Chongqing. But authorities often play down news coverage of such violence out of concern for the potential to threaten social stability.

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Although perpetrators of school attacks in China often receive severe punishments, including the death penalty, the harsh consequences have done little to deter attackers.

And with firearms strictly regulated in the country, the attacks are often carried out with knives or hammers.

Experts have attributed the problem of school attacks in part to the absence of robust mental health care in China and growing frustrations about social inequality and justice.

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