China warns of Games hijack threat

BEIJING Tue Aug 21, 2007 3:15am EDT

A man walks past the official logo for the 2008 Beijing Olympics during a countdown ceremony in Hong Kong March 27, 2007. China has warned of hijack threats during next year's Beijing Olympics in a country it says is increasingly infiltrated by international terrorists, state media reported on Tuesday. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

A man walks past the official logo for the 2008 Beijing Olympics during a countdown ceremony in Hong Kong March 27, 2007. China has warned of hijack threats during next year's Beijing Olympics in a country it says is increasingly infiltrated by international terrorists, state media reported on Tuesday.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China has warned of hijack threats during next year's Beijing Olympics in a country it says is increasingly infiltrated by international terrorists, state media reported on Tuesday.

Chinese police and civil aviation officials said that protecting planes from hijackers would be a "severe test" as air traffic was expected to increase 50 percent at the country's main airports during the Games in a year's time.

"At present, China's anti-hijacking work is facing a series of new challenges," the China Daily quoted Zhang Xinfeng, vice-minister of public security, as saying.

"Some international terrorist organizations are increasing their infiltration into China and civil aviation planes could be the target of a terrorist attack," he said.

China on Sunday conducted an anti-hijacking drill involving more than 600 police, aviation and emergency personnel in Dalian, a northeastern port in Liaoning province, including a mock raid on a plane hijacked by five people.

Authorities also carried out another exercise in which emergency workers extinguished a fire aboard a plane set ablaze after a forced landing at an airport, the paper said.

Ten planes were hijacked from the Chinese mainland in 1993 and taken to Taiwan, the paper said.

Last week, Taiwan sent two convicted aircraft hijackers back to China after serving jail terms for forcing planes to divert to the self-ruled island.

Taiwan, which China claims as its own and has vowed to bring back under mainland rule by force if necessary, once welcomed fugitives from the mainland as heroes seeking freedom from communism, but cracked down on hijackers in the 1990s to stabilize cross-strait relations.

China has waged a harsh campaign in recent years against what it says are violent separatists and Islamic extremists pressing for an independent "East Turkestan" in its farflung northwestern region of Xinjiang.

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