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March 19, 2004
Assassination Attempt on Taiwan President, VP

CNN reports that the president and VP of Taiwan were both wounded in an assassination attempt during a motorcade campaign appearance just before midnight CT:

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu have been rushed to hospital after an assassination attempt while campaigning for Saturday's election.

Chen was shot in the stomach at 1:45 p.m. (0545 GMT) Friday but his condition was not critical, the Presidential Office said. Lu's leg was grazed by a bullet.

The office said both Chen and Lu were in a stable condition and that the president had urged calm.

So far, there is no word on suspects, and the Taiwan authorities have made no arrests.

Initially, no one knew Chen had been shot; the Chinese traditionally celebrate with firecrackers, and the sounds of the gunshots must have been lost in all the other noise. (Taiwan's security forces should reconsider the wisdom of allowing that particular tradition to continue.) Television cameras captured the bullet strike on Chen, showing blood on his windbreaker as he stood in the back of the Jeep in shock, somewhat like the moment Ronald Reagan was hit by John Hinkley's bullet.

Later pictures showed a bullet hole in the windshield, meaning that whoever shot Chen did so from the street level while the car drove towards the shooter. In a way, this is comforting. No professional assassin would choose a shot that went through a windshield or any other barrier; the potential for bullet deflection would make the odds of success unnecessarily longer. That would seem to rule out Red China as a suspect, at least directly. Like most assassinations, the suspect will likely be a disgruntled, unsuccessful loner or a member of a lunatic-fringe group.

In any case, the attack occurred just before elections (which sound all too familiar), but both sides have said that the elections should go on, even though they've both suspended their campaigns. President Chen, who is expected to fully recover, has called for calm in the aftermath of the shooting. China, as you might imagine, will watch the situation carefully to exploit any opportunity that arises to, ahem, "provide security" if Taiwan shows any sign of meltdown in the aftermath of the assassination attempt.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 19, 2004 5:35 AM

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Tracked on March 19, 2004 1:02 PM

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