China detains 5 Uighurs in Tiananmen Square investigation

The Chinese authorites have detained 5 ethnic Uighurs in connection with an incident in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Monday, in which 5 people were killed.

China detains 5 Uighurs in Tiananmen Square investigation

World Bulletin / News Desk

China said on Wednesday it had caught five suspected people after a vehicle burst into flames on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The SUV involved in Monday's incident in which five people were killed was driven by Usmen Hasan, police said, a man whose name suggested he is an ethnic Uighur, from the far western region of East Turkistan.

His wife and mother were with him in the car, along with devices filled with gasoline, knives and a flag with "religious extremist content" written on it, police said on their official microblog.

The vehicle ploughed into pedestrians in the square, which has drawn occasional protests since 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations were suppressed by the military. Sources earlier told Reuters it was a suspected suicide attack.

"Police have identified Monday's incident at Tiananmen Square as a violent terrorist attack which was carefully planned, organised and premeditated," police said, adding the three people in the vehicle died after they set the gasoline on fire.

The other two people killed were tourists. At least 38 people were injured.

Five people connected with the incident were caught just 10 hours after the attack, with help from the East Turkistan government, the police added, all of whom also have names that suggest they are Uighur.

Police said they had seized flags and knives from where they were staying.

As authorities stepped up security in East Turkistan, Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the main exiled Uighur group, the World Uyghur Congress, warned against believing China's side of the story.

"Beijing has always made these kind of accusations, but they refuse to make public the reasoning behind them. They will not make the story behind the accusations transparent," he told Reuters.

"ULTERIOR MOTIVE"

Raxit said he was worried the incident would provide authorities with an excuse "to further repress Uighurs".

"If an attack is committed by a Han Chinese, it's not terrorism, but if a Uighur commits it, it is," he said, referring to the majority community. "Beijing makes these accusations in service of an ulterior motive."

The government denies accusations of repression.

Reuters reporters in Xinjiang were turned back by police at a roadblock outside Lukqun town, and sent back to the nearby city of Turpan.

Police have identified one of the caught suspects as being from Lukqun, where 35 people died in June in what China also termed a terrorist attack.

"We have some police matters we are handling. For security reasons, you are not allowed in. I imagine it will be at least another month or two before this area is open," a police officer at the checkpoint said.

In a small village near the checkpoint, a young Uighur man who declined to give his name said people were afraid.

"In the past few days, the police have been everywhere. At night, the sirens were all around. We are afraid to speak. If you speak, you will be taken away or shot," the man said, making a pistol shape with his hand.

East Turkistan is home to the Turkic-speaking Uighurs, many of whom chaff at China's controls on their religion and culture and there have been violent clashes there in the past.

Last Mod: 30 Ekim 2013, 14:33
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