China Says Tiananmen 'Terror Attack' Planned in Advance
2 November 2013 (4:16AM)
Chinese state media are releasing more details about what they say was a terrorist attack in Tiananmen Square carried out by militant Uighurs - a mainly Muslim ethnic group in western China. And reports coming in from Xinjiang Province tell of a crackdown on the minority Uighur community there.
China Central Television says eight Islamist separatists from Xinjiang province had been planning the attack in Beijing for more than a month, and had accumulated more than $6,500 in funds to support their plot.
The state-run broadcaster says three of the suspects drove a Mercedes SUV loaded with 400 liters of gasoline into Tiananmen Square on Monday. The vehicle crashed and exploded in flames, killing the three men and two tourists and wounding dozens of other people. Authorities say the five other suspects lerft Beijing before the attack and were arrested later in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital.
The World Uyghur Congress said Friday that Chinese police have arrested at least 53 people in Xinjiang since the blast in Beijing. The exile group said "a period of unprecedented repression" appears imminent, and it appealed for support from the international community.
The World Uyghur Congress, which is based abroad in Munich, says exiles fear that Beijing will use the Tiananmen incident to justify further restrictions on the Uighur community, which they already is considered a target of religious and cultural persecution. It expressed skepticism about Chinese authorities' version of what happened in Beijing, and urged the world to withhold judgment until full details are known.
China's domestic security chief, Meng Jianzhu, said the attack in Beijing on Monday was carried out activists from a Muslim Uighur separatist group based in Xinjiang, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.N., U.S. and others.
The CCTV report, however, said the Tiananmen plotters decided to form a terrorist group only last month.
China says it dopes not mistreat Uighurs, but is waging a campaign against separatists trying to form a separate nation in what they call East Turkestan. Chinese authorities say Uighurs are guaranteed wide-ranging religious and cultural freedoms.
Clashes in Xinjiang between Uighurs and the Han Chinese majority, including members of government security forces, are not uncommon. Beijing says over 200 people have been killed in such attacks in recent years, but this is the first time authorities have blamed Uighurs for a major incident in the national capital.
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