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Officials: Chinese serial killer shot dead after massive manhunt

BEIJING -- A fugitive gunman thought to have shot dead nine people since 2004 was himself killed by police in southern China on Tuesday after a massive manhunt that has gripped the country.

Zhou Kehua, 42, who was responsible for nine deaths across several provinces, was finally cornered and shot dead at a Chongqing shoe factory around dawn, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Keen to put on a show of strength after the sacking earlier this year of Chongqing's controversial Communist Party head Bo Xilai, who led a high-profile crimebusting campaign, authorities mobilized thousands of police to catch the killer.

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Zhou had been implicated in robberies and killings in three provinces dating back to 2004 and resurfaced last week to shoot dead a woman outside a Chongqing bank, Xinhua said.

Authorities described Zhou, who targeted people withdrawing money from banks, as "ruthless and extremely dangerous," had repeatedly dodged police manhunts. 

"Police ... confirmed that the Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau was praised and honored by China's Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu immediately after the operation," Xinhua added.

Chinese news portals showed a lurid picture provided by the police of Zhou sprawled on the ground with blood streaming from his head.

Gun crime is rare in China as a result of tight controls over firearms.

The hunt for Zhou has been the most popular topic on China's Twitter-like microblogging site Sina Weibo for the past few days, and has dominated the news.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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