Asia-Pacific

Nine held in China after emperor family tombs' raid

Terracotta Warriors in Xian, China
Image caption The warriors were built to protect Emperor Qin after his death

Nine people have been arrested after robbing the ancestral tombs of China's first Emperor Qin Shihuang, Chinese officials say.

They say the robbers armed with hacksaws targeted the resting places of the emperor's parents and grandparents in the north-western Shaanxi province.

Damaged coffins were found and relics taken from the tombs, reports say.

The officials say they also discovered a 30m (99ft) tunnel leading into the mausoleum.

Some reports suggest the grave robbers were so well-equipped they laid electricity cables along the tunnel and installed fans to pump air into the tombs.

The raided mausoleum lies in the ancient Chinese capital of Xian, where China's earliest leaders are buried.

Nearby is the resting place of Emperor Qin, who after a series of punishing wars unified the country in 221BC.

Most famously his mausoleum is guarded by the terracotta warriors which are believed to protect the emperor in the afterlife.

The robbery was discovered last month by guards but it has only now been reported, apparently because of the sensitivity of the site.

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