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Suspect held after fatal arson attack

A teenager has been arrested in connection with a fire at a kindergarten classroom in Central China that killed three children.

Thirteen other youngsters and one teacher were injured in the blaze, which happened in the village of Shiguan under the city of Gongyi in Henan Province at about 9 am on Monday.

Three local residents grieve their children's death in Shiguan village, central China's Henan province May 8, 2006. Bai Ningyang, a 19-year-old native set fire to a classroom of a local kindergarten on Monday, killing 3 students and wounding another 13 students and a teacher. [Newsphoto]

Police arrested Bai Ningyang, a 19-year-old local unemployed man, yesterday, sources with local police told China News Service's website.

He was found in a cave in a nearby mountain following a search involving 800 police officers.

Local residents claimed Bai torched the school after being repeatedly rejected for a date by a female teacher there. She was among the people who suffered burns in the fire.

The claims could not be verified by police yesterday.

Those injured in the blaze were taken to local hospitals initially, but some were later transferred to the No 1 People's Hospital in the province's capital of Zhengzhou because of the severity of their burns.

A doctor there, surnamed Sun, said some victims were still in critical conditions.

Police had offered a 20,000 yuan (US$2,500) reward for information leading to the capture of the suspect and had issued a televised appeal.

A local education official told China Daily yesterday that the kindergarten was suspected of being run illegally.

Previous reports have said the kindergarten shares the same courtyard with a factory and the arsonist was able to walk freely through the main gate, which often remains open for the factory's convenience.

Police said Bai stormed into the classroom on the second floor, splashed two bottles of petrol around and set it on fire. Twenty-one children and the teacher were in the classroom at the time.

Bai even told one child to leave the room before he torched it as he knew their parents, according to police.

Two children, both aged five, died at the scene, while a third passed away in hospital.