March 9, 2008 / 9:43 AM / 11 years ago

China foils attempt to cause air crash-governor

BEIJING, March 9 (Reuters) - A China Southern flight was forced to make an emergency landing last week after an attempt to "cause an air disaster", the governor of China’s restive northwestern region of Xinjiang said on Sunday.

The official Xinhua news agency said authorities "foiled a planned terrorist attack".

The plane made an emergency landing in Lanzhou, capital of the northwestern province of Gansu, last Friday after taking off from Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, bound for Beijing.

"It was an attempt to cause an air disaster," Xinjiang Governor Nuer Baikeli told reporters on the sidelines of the annual session of parliament.

The crew discovered and foiled the attempt, Nuer Baikeli said, adding that the motive was under investigation.

There were no casualties or damage.

A source with knowledge of the incident told Reuters that at least two passengers on flight CZ6901 have been taken into custody for questioning.

The source, who requested anonymity, said inflammable material was found in the plane’s toilet.

Repeated calls to the spokesman’s office of China Southern went unanswered.

Xinjiang is home to 8 million Muslim Uighurs, many of whom resent the growing presence and economic grip of Han Chinese. Some have agitated for an independent "East Turkestan".

A senior Chinese official has warned that Uighurs — a Turkic, largely Islamic people who share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia — were plotting attacks on the Beijing Olympics.

Oil-rich Xinjiang borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by David Fogarty)

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