China: Tiananmen Square incident terror attack; 5 arrested

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Tiananmen square
Beijing, Oct 30: In a major breakthrough in the mysterious car crash incident at the iconic Tiananmen Square here, Chinese police on Wednesday termed it as a terrorist act by Islamic militants from the troubled Xinjiang province and arrested five suspects.

The vehicle which burst into flames after crashing into the railing at the Forbidden City entrance on Monday, carried containers filled with gasoline, besides knives and iron bars, state-run CCTV reported.

Five suspects have been arrested, it said without revealing their identities. Earlier media reports said police were looking for eight suspects all from the Muslim Uygur-majority Xinjiang province, border Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Afghanistan. Three persons, who were travelling in the car were killed along two other tourists in the incident.

Thirty eight others were injured in what is now described as a full-blown terrorist attack on China's most iconic landmark. The Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) bearing number plates from Xinjiang carried a flag and displayed extremist slogans, the report said, It appears that the militants wanted to create a big impact attacking China's seat of power as well as the famous symbol of its ancient Chinese civilisation.

Observers say that judging from the previous attacks in Xinjiang, the militants wanted to attack the crowds with knives and iron bars besides setting the place on fire. Monday's attack was their biggest outside Xinjiang. The SUV crashed into the railings right at the entrance of the sprawling Forbidden City, home of successive Chinese ruling dynasties.

The SUV was reportedly chased by police cars. Some tourists said they heard an explosion. Also the car went up in flames near the life-size picture of the ruling Communist Party founder Mao Zedong, which however remained intact. The imposing Forbidden City overlooks the Tiananmen Square, one of the largest of its kind in the world measuring up to the size of several football fields.

The Square also symbolises China's power as the Great Hall of the People, the prestigious venue where China hosts all foreign dignitaries besides housing the National People's Congress (NPC), China's rubberstamp Parliament. The Square also has its infamous history as it was the scene of the country's worst political crackdowns in which hundreds of students were killed during the 1989 protests.

Thousands of foreign and domestic tourists visit the spot every day. Besides the three passengers in the SUV, a Philippine female tourist and a male tourist from south China's Guangdong Province were killed in Monday's attack. Thirty eight others including a Japanese tourist were also injured. Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has expressed its sympathies to the families of the victims and said that all medical assistance is being provided to the injured.

China says pro-Al-Qaeda separatist outfit, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) was active in Xinjiang, which in recent years has experienced periodic riots between Uyghurs and Han Chinese over the increasing settlements of Hans in the province. China has deployed security forces in huge numbers, including some of its top commando units to contain the insurgency.

PTI

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