Tiananmen crash: China police 'detain suspects'

As Damian Grammaticas reports, police have described the incident as a "terror attack"

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Police in China have detained five suspects in connection with Monday's deadly car crash at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, state media report.

Police have described the incident as a "violent terror attack", the Xinhua news agency says, for first time.

All three people in the car had names from the Muslim Uighur minority in the restive western region of Xinjiang.

Two bystanders died and 38 people were injured after the vehicle crashed into a crowd and burst into flames.

The police said that what happened at Tiananmen Square was a "violent terrorist attack" which was "carefully planned and organised", Xinhua says.

Uighurs and Xinjiang

  • Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
  • They make up about 45% of the region's population; 40% are Han Chinese
  • China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan
  • Since then, there was large-scale immigration of Han Chinese
  • Uighurs fear erosion of traditional culture

The jeep that crashed into a bridge in front of the Forbidden City was driven by a man who was with his wife and mother, police said in a statement.

The three ignited petrol inside the car, they added.

Police said the vehicle they found on Monday had a container for petrol, two knives and what they describe as a flag with extremist religious slogans on it. They added that the car's number plates were registered in Xinjiang province.

They said they also found more knives and another flag at a location in Beijing.

On Wednesday, a number of news agency reports said a police notice was being circulated among hotels in Beijing, asking information about eight suspects.

Seven have names typical of the Uighur ethnic group and the other, although seemingly from China's majority Han ethnicity, has an address in Xinjiang, reports say.

A tourist from the Philippines and a tourist from Guangdong province were among those killed in the incident. Another 38 people were injured, including three tourists from the Philippines and one from Japan.

Uighur complaints

Police shut down the scene of the incident - at the north end of the square at an entrance to the Forbidden City - shortly after it occurred, temporarily closing a subway station and a road.

A BBC crew attempting to record footage at the location were briefly detained, while on Chinese social media some pictures of the scene appeared to be quickly deleted and comments were heavily censored.

Xinjiang is home to the minority Muslim Uighur group, some of whom complain of cultural and religious repression under Beijing's rule. There have been sporadic outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang, including in both Pishan and Shanshan counties. China says it grants the Uighurs wide-ranging freedoms.

In June, riots in Xingjian's Turpan prefecture, which is in Shanshan county, killed 27 people. State media said police opened fire after a mob armed with knives attacked police stations and a local government building.

In April another incident in the city of Kashgar left 21 people dead. The government said the violence was linked to terrorist activity, but local people told the BBC it involved a local family who had a longstanding dispute with officials over religious freedom.

Map of Tiananmen

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