China says Tiananmen attackers carried out reconnaissance trips


BEIJING, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Eight people accused by China ofinvolvement in an attack on Tiananmen Square in which fivepeople died had carried out three reconnaissance trips andcollected 400 litres of fuel in preparation, state media said.

The accused all came from Hotan in the restive far westernregion of Xinjiang and were hiding out in western Beijing aheadof the attack, state television said late on Friday.

They had accumulated 40,000 yuan ($6,600) and a number ofknives before driving a Mercedes SUV onto the northern part ofthe square at midday on Monday, in front of the entrance to theForbidden City, the report said.

The car ploughed through bystanders on the edge of thecapital's iconic Tiananmen Square and burst into flames, killingthe three people in the car and two bystanders, in what thegovernment called a "terrorist attack". Forty people were hurt.

Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uighur minority, many of whomchaff at China's restrictions on their religion, culture andlanguage, though the government says they are granted broadfreedoms.

Xinjiang has been wracked by unrest in recent years, blamedby the government on the separatist East Turkestan IslamicMovement which Beijing believes was also responsible for thisweek's Tiananmen attack.

Rights groups, exiles and some experts say though that thereis little evidence of a cohesive extremist movement operating inXinjiang.

State media have identified the three people in the car asUsmen Hasan, his mother Kuwanhan Reyim and his wife Gulkiz Gini,all from Hotan in the heavily Uighur southern part of Xinjiang.

The five people Beijing police have in custody are also fromHotan, according to state television. Police had previouslyidentified another part of Xinjiang as the hometown of one ofthe suspects, called Lukqun.

State media said that the eight decided to set up aterrorist group in September, and seven of them arrived inBeijing by SUV on Oct. 7, while one came by train.

On Oct. 23, five of them returned to Xinjiang's regionalcapital Urumqi, while a family of three remained in Beijing.

Beijing police have said the five people it has in custodywere radical Islamists who were planning a holy war. Securityhas been strengthened in both Beijing and in Xinjiang.

Exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer told Reuters this weekthat caution should be exercised over the government's account,adding she did not believe any kind of organised extremistIslamic movement was operating in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang is a sprawling, arid region that borders CentralAsian nations that were part of the former Soviet Union as wellas Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In 2009, nearly 200 people were killed in the Xinjiangcapital, Urumqi, in rioting between Uighurs and the majority HanChinese.

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