China holds 5 for Tiananmen 'terror attack'

2013-10-30 20:18
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Tiananmen crash

See pictures of Beijing's Tiananmen Square after an SUV vehicle crashed into a crowd and burst into flames. Chinese police have named two suspects after the car crash killed five people.

Beijing - Chinese police announced on Wednesday they have captured five suspects over a "terrorist attack" in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the first time authorities have accused terrorists of striking in the capital.

The driver of the sports utility vehicle which sped along the pavement, ploughed into crowds and crashed in the symbolic heart of the Chinese state on Monday was named by state media as Usmen Hasan.

His wife and mother were both with him, the media said.

City police said on a verified social media account that they "ignited the petrol inside the car so the car caught on fire" and the three "died at the scene".

Two tourists, one a woman from the Philippines, were also killed in the incident, near a huge portrait of Mao Zedong hanging from the walls of the Forbidden City, and 40 people were injured, according to police.

It was a "carefully planned, organised and premeditated violent terrorist attack", the police statement said, adding that the car carried petrol, knives and banners bearing extremist religious content.

Police said the vehicle had a licence plate identifying it as from the restive western region of Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority.

The names given for the three dead family members and the five detained suspects sounded Uighur, although their ethnicities were not explicitly stated.

The five people were arrested on Monday and confessed to plotting the "attack", police said, adding that "jihad banners", long knives and other items were found in at least one suspect's residence.

At least one of those held was from Lukqun, where state media said 35 people were killed in June in what Beijing called a "terrorist attack".

Justify religious restrictions

The police account of a terrorist strike in the heart of the capital prompted fearful reactions from residents.

"I work in Beijing. I never imagined there would be an act of terror this close to us," one user of Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, wrote.

Another said: "I suddenly feel that life is much harder."

Relations between China's majority Han and the Uighur minority are often tense, in part because of reports of what Beijing calls terrorism. Inter-ethnic rioting in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi killed around 200 people in 2009.

Some online comentators called for retribution. "We must destroy the terrorists root and branch so we can avoid trouble later on," one Sina Weibo user said, with another adding: "We must treat (terrorists) firmly, we cannot be soft on them."

Details of alleged incidents in Xinjiang are often hard to confirm, and exile groups accuse China of exaggerating the threat to justify religious and cultural restrictions.

The police account of the suspects as being found with extremist religious materials closely mirrored descriptions of those arrested over previous Xinjiang "terrorist attacks". Rights groups say those accounts have led to brutal crackdowns on Uighurs.

No Uighur group has claimed responsibility for Monday's crash.

"There are extreme worries over the fate of Uighur people," said Dilshat Rexit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, an exile group which Beijing has condemned as separatist, after news of the detentions emerged.

"The Beijing incident is an excuse for repressing Xinjiang," he said in a statement. "China is increasing its surveillance of Uighur students and business people, and has instituted discriminatory policies sending people back to Xinjiang.

"According to local sources, 93 Uighur people have been arrested in Beijing, the secret service is carrying out checks, and has provided no reasons for the arrests."

Demonisation of the Uighur

Earlier the group's president Rebiya Kadeer said: "Today, I fear for the future of East Turkestan and the Uighur people more than I ever have."

East Turkestan is the name which the activist organisation uses to refer to Xinjiang, where Uighurs make up 46% of the population.

The group added that it fears the response by authorities in Beijing will "lead to further demonisation of the Uighur people and incite a fierce state crackdown" in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang is periodically hit by violent clashes. Millions of Han Chinese have moved to the mineral-rich area in recent decades.

Police have arrested at least 139 people in the region in recent months for allegedly spreading jihad, according to state-run media. China has sentenced at least five Uighurs to death this year after they were convicted of carrying out attacks.

In August state-run media said that a policeman had been killed in an "anti-terrorism" operation -- although overseas reports said 22 Uighurs died in the incident.

Three Philippine tourists and one Japanese were among the injured on Monday.

"All patients involved in the incident are recovering," a nurse who declined to be named told AFP at Beijing's Tongren hospital.

Read more on:    china  |  security

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.