China's most infamous criminals who terrorized the nation in an eight-month spree of murders and robberies have been killed in a police shoot-out.

The criminals, known as the "Wang brothers"--Wang Zongwei, 26, and Wang Zongfang, 30--who had evaded police like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid--were finally vanquished Sunday in the mountains of southeast China, according to today's editions of the official People's Daily. The newspaper said it took a combined force of local troops, militia and police to track down and kill the two most wanted men.

People's Daily failed to spell out charges against the Wangs, but other sources say they had murdered four police officers and four soldiers and wounded several other people as they roamed the east coast robbing hospitals since February.

Foreign analysts have described them as extreme examples of a new breed of Chinese criminal coming from the "lost generation" of cynical youth. These people had been used by officials to fuel Mao's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, then were ostracized for the damage it caused.

An ongoing crime crackdown to ensure safety of China's cities is mainly aimed at that group of youthful offenders. Hundreds of criminals are believed to have been rounded up and executed in the past month.

The Wangs have been prime targets of the crackdown. Police, for the first time in years, offered cash rewards for tips leading to their arrest.

Nothing has been published about the Wangs in the controlled Communist press, but informed diplomats and usually reliable Hong Kong media have provided some details. According to those sources, the brothers turned to crime in February after stealing pistols from a munitions factory where they had been working in the northeast city of Shenyang.

They were caught after they were spotted buying food and cigarettes Sept. 13 in a country town of Jiangxi province, the newspaper reported.