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October 30, 2013

China Arrests 5 for Tiananmen 'Terror Attack'

by William Ide

Chinese authorities say terrorists were responsible for carrying out an attack Monday in China’s Tiananmen Square that left five dead and injured 40.

Chinese authorities say the three people in the car were from the same family.  Based on their names, it appeared Usmen Hassan, his wife and mother were members of China’s ethnic Uighur minority group from Xinjiang.

​​Authorities say five suspects who were being sought in connection with the incident have been detained. Based on their names, they appeared to be from China’s remote Xinjiang region.

Officials say Beijing and Xinjiang police worked together in carrying out the arrest of all five. Authorities add the attack was highly organized and pre-meditated.

Although largely silent about the incident since Monday, Chinese state media were quick to release information Wednesday and condemn those who were said to be behind the attack.

The broadcaster quotes a spokesman for the Beijing Public Security Bureau as saying that the three suspects set the Jeep on fire after it crashed through a barricade and into the Jinshui Bridge near the entrance to the Forbidden City. The three died at the scene.

Police say they found gasoline, two knives, steel sticks and a flag with extremist religious content inside the Jeep.

China frequently blames Uighurs from Xinjiang for carrying out terrorist attacks, but exile groups argue the evidence released in many instances is frequently slim and has been exaggerated. They say this allows authorities to continue to carry out policies that members of the mostly Muslim minority group consider to overly restrict their cultural and religious activities.

It was not clear whether other suspects were still being sought in connection with Monday’s incident.  Earlier, authorities were reaching out to hotels in Beijing in search of eight suspects from Xinjiang.

Hotel workers in the Chinese capital say they have been briefed on a list of eight names and license numbers.

Most of the names and numbers on the list were of individuals from China’s restive northwestern region of Xinjiang. However, hotel workers say one of the names appeared to be of an ethnic Chinese.

The hotel worker says that while other journalists have been asking to see the list, the manager says the document is only for those who work at the hotel and that he can not show it.

“Several have asked about the list, but I can’t show you the document because our manager says it’s just for those who work here.”

He says the hotel will not let individuals from Xinjiang stay there and has not had any guests from Xinjiang over the past two days.

Even with the new details about the case, it is still unclear how the car was able to make its way through layers of security, crash and catch fire in front of the Forbidden City. Some security experts have argued that the case raises questions about the effectiveness of China’s massive security apparatus.

An editorial in China’s Global Times newspaper Wednesday praised the government’s response and efforts to notify both hotels and entertainment venues about the suspects. It also argued that the incident highlighted China’s resilience to such incidents.

China spends more on internal security and keeping its public in check than it does on its military.