China police arrest Xinjiang 'terror gang'

Policemen stand guard near the road leading to the site of Thursday's explosion in Urumqi, China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, Friday, 23 May. Image copyright AP
Image caption The arrests followed last week's deadly attack on an Urumqi market street

Police in China's Xinjiang region have arrested a "terror group", following a spate of attacks blamed on extremists, state media report.

Five suspects were detained and 1.8 tonnes of material for explosive devices seized, Xinhua said.

Police said the suspects intended to bomb crowded locations in Hotan in south-western Xinjiang.

The arrests come days after an attack in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi killed 39 people and injured more than 90.

Authorities say they are holding a suspect in connection with the attack, in which two vehicles drove into shoppers at a market and attackers threw explosives. Four other attackers reportedly died at the scene.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Urumqi residents gathered on 23 May to mourn the victims of the attack

That attack followed a bomb and knife attack at Urumqi's south railway station in April, a March stabbing spree in Kunming in Yunnan province, and a October 2013 incident in which a car ploughed into a crowd and burst into flames in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Authorities have blamed separatists from the region's Uighur Muslim minority for these attacks.

Police said the Hotan group were led by a man named Abliz Dawut, who along with other members constructed bombs the night after the 22 May attack.

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 has been large-scale immigration of Han Chinese
  • Uighurs fear erosion of their traditional culture

Why is there tension between China and the Uighurs?

The suspects had allegedly watched videos that "advocated terrorism and religious extremism", and had repeatedly visited Urumqi and other places to search and buy material for bombs, Xinhua reported, citing police.

Last week, authorities announced a one-year campaign against militant violence in Xinjiang, banning people from conducting or supporting extremist activity.

Possession of propaganda materials with extremist content, and the manufacture and possession of weapons such as guns and knives, are prohibited, according to Xinhua.

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