Tiananmen crash 'incited by Islamists'

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas says China is "not directly blaming" the group

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China's top security official says a deadly crash in Beijing's Tiananmen Square was incited by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

The crash occurred on Monday when a car ploughed into a crowd then burst into flames, killing three people inside the vehicle and two tourists.

Police have arrested five suspects, all from the western region of Xinjiang, home to minority Uighur Muslims.

Security has also been tightened in Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia.

China often blames the ETIM group for incidents in Xinjiang. But the BBC correspondent in Beijing says few believe that the group has any capacity to carry out any serious acts of terror in China.

Uighur groups claim China uses ETIM as an excuse to justify repressive security in Xinjiang.

'Behind the scenes'

"This violent terrorist incident that's happened in Beijing was organised and premeditated," China's top security official, Meng Jianzhu, said during a visit to Uzbekistan.

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 group that stood behind the scenes inciting it was the East Turkestan Islamic Movement," he said.

"We must seek to further strengthen international anti-terror co-operation... in order to create a strong deterrent and further safeguard peace and stability in our region."

More than 40 people were injured in Monday's crash.

Police identified the driver of the vehicle as as a man called Usmen Hasan, who they said was accompanied by his wife and mother.

The vehicle had a Xinjiang number plate and was carrying knives, iron rods, and a flag with religious slogans, they said.

Following the incident, police in Xinjiang said security levels there were raised and that security services were visiting "sensitive religious families".

The region has seen frequent ethnic tensions between Uighurs and ethnic Han Chinese.

China says the ETIM is a violent separatist movement.

The BBC's Damien Grammaticas reports from Beijing that some of Xinjiang's Uighur population who resent repressive Chinese security and feel discriminated against may sympathise with ETIM's aims.

But he adds that most observers believe the group has little capacity to carry out any serious acts of terror in China.

Rebiya Kadeer, leader of the World Uighur Congress, which represents the Uighur community in exile, told Reuters news agency earlier this week that Chinese findings "cannot be accepted as facts without an independent and international investigation".

"It is difficult to tell [the truth] at the moment, given the strict control of information by the Chinese government on this tragic incident," she said.

Map of Tiananmen

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