China executes eight for "terrorist" attacks in Xinjiang

SHANGHAI Sat Aug 23, 2014 11:30pm EDT

SHANGHAI Aug 24 (Reuters) - China has executed eight people for "terrorist" attacks in its restive far western region of Xinjiang, including three who "masterminded" a dramatic car crash in the capital's Tiananmen Square in 2013, state media said.

Xinjiang is the traditional home of Muslim Uighurs who speak a Turkic language, and China has attributed attacks there to Islamist separatists it says seek to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.

Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government's own repressive policies in Xinjiang have provoked unrest, an accusation Beijing denies.

Three of the executed group "masterminded" the October 2013 attack in the heart of the Chinese capital, official news agency Xinhua said late on Saturday.

Five people were killed and 40 injured in the incident, when a car plowed into a crowd in the square and burst into flames.

The other executions, carried out in recent days, were punishment for crimes ranging from setting up a terrorist outfit and illegally making explosives to attacking police officers and killing government officials, Xinhua said.

A report by China Central Television (CCTV) on Sunday showed images of the individuals who have been executed being led into court and questioned by police. It also showed footage of the Tiananmen attack, with a car being driven into the square.

Some of those executed were blamed for attacks in Xinjiang's prefecture of Aksu, the city of Kashgar and the town of Hotan, the agency added.

China has been cracking down on violent crime in Xinjiang after a string of deadly attacks there, and it executed 13 people in June.

Hundreds of people have died in violence in the region over the last two years, with dozens jailed in the last month, some at mass public sentencings reminiscent of China's revolutionary-era rallies.

This month a court in Xinjiang sentenced 25 people to jail for terror-related offences. Authorities also tightened security around public transport in a bid to crack down on violence, demanding bus passengers show identification to travel.

A suicide bombing in May killed 39 people at a market in Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi. In March, 29 people were stabbed to death at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming. (Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)