China launches huge manhunt for fugitive killer

China has launched a huge manhunt for a fugitive armed robber accused of killing nine people, most recently a police officer, an official and state media said on Monday.

The 42-year-old suspect, dubbed the "most dangerous man in China" by the country's state-run media, targets people withdrawing money from banks and is reported to have been on the run since 2004.

The China Daily said he shot a woman dead outside a bank in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing on Friday morning, injuring another two people, before killing a police officer later that day.

"Large numbers" of police were combing a mountain in Chongqing where the suspect, Zhou Kehua, was believed to be hiding after the Friday killings, the paper said.

A Chongqing police official surnamed Zhan told AFP by telephone: "We are still hunting for Zhou Kehua. I cannot give any more information."

Zhou's crime spree began when he shot and killed a woman during a 70,000 yuan ($11,000) bank heist in Chongqing in 2004, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Police believe he is also responsible for shootings in Changsha, in China's central Hunan province and, Nanjing, in Jiangsu, in the east.

Chongqing has offered a 500,000 yuan reward for any information leading to his capture. Authorities have warned residents against attempting to confront or arrest the suspect, as he is "ruthless and highly dangerous", Xinhua said.

Gun crime is relatively rare in China, where extremely tight laws bar almost all private ownership of firearms.

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