By Paul Carsten
BEIJING Nov 2 Eight suspected Islamist
separatists behind a deadly attack in the Chinese capital had
carried out three reconnaissance trips and collected 400 litres
of fuel in preparation for their assault on Tiananmen Square,
state media said.
The accused all came from Hotan in the restive far western
region of Xinjiang and were hiding out in western Beijing ahead
of the attack, state television said late on Friday.
They had accumulated 40,000 yuan ($6,600) and a number of
knives before driving a Mercedes SUV onto the northern part of
the square at midday on Monday, in front of the entrance to the
Forbidden City, the report said.
The car ploughed through bystanders on the edge of the
capital's iconic Tiananmen Square and burst into flames, killing
the three people in the car and two bystanders, in what the
government called a "terrorist attack". Forty people were hurt.
The incident has led to increased suppression of the Muslim
Uighur minority in Xinjiang, according to the main Uighur exile
group, who said 53 people have been arrested by Chinese armed
forces for illegally hoarding religious publications as
authorities step up inspections.
"Since the Tiananmen incident China has increased its local
suppression and provocation of Uighurs," said World Uyghur
Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit said in email to Reuters. "It
could spark a new conflict between Uighurs and China's
government at any time."
Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uighur minority, many of whom
chaff at China's restrictions on their religion, culture and
language, though the government says they are granted broad
Xinjiang has been wracked by unrest in recent years, blamed
by the government on the separatist East Turkestan Islamic
Movement which Beijing believes was also responsible for this
week's Tiananmen attack.
Rights groups, exiles and some experts say though that there
is little evidence of a cohesive extremist movement operating in
POLICE TRACE MOVEMENTS
State media have identified the three people in the car as
Usmen Hasan, his mother Kuwanhan Reyim and his wife Gulkiz Gini,
all from Hotan in the heavily Uighur southern part of Xinjiang.
The five people Beijing police have in custody are also from
Hotan, according to state television. Police had previously
identified another part of Xinjiang as the hometown of one of
the suspects, called Lukqun.
State media said that the eight decided to set up a
terrorist group in September, and seven of them arrived in
Beijing by SUV on Oct. 7, while one came by train.
On Oct. 23, five of them returned to Xinjiang's regional
capital Urumqi, while a family of three remained in Beijing.
Beijing police have said the five people it has in custody
were radical Islamists who were planning a holy war. Security
has been strengthened in both Beijing and in Xinjiang.
Exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer told Reuters this week
that caution should be exercised over the government's account,
adding she did not believe any kind of organised extremist
Islamic movement was operating in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is a sprawling, arid region that borders Central
Asian nations that were part of the former Soviet Union as well
as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In 2009, nearly 200 people were killed in the Xinjiang
capital, Urumqi, in rioting between Uighurs and the majority Han