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China Says Terrorist Plot Aimed at Beijing Olympics Disrupted

China's public security bureau says it has cracked two terrorist cells plotting attacks and abductions to wreck the Beijing Olympics. The bureau says the groups were part of an Islamic terrorist organization wanting independence for China's western Xinjiang province, where critics say Beijing has suppressed Muslim minorities. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

China's public security bureau says this year it arrested 45 terrorists planning an attack at the 2008 Olympics.

The bureau said the arrests took place from January to April in two separate operations in western Xinjiang province. They said they also seized 20 explosive devices, more than 100 kilograms of explosive materials, and a book on how to start a holy war.

Bureau spokesman Wu Heping said the groups were plotting attacks on major cities and to abduct foreigners and Olympic athletes. He said some of those arrested were ordered to watch government buildings, military facilities, and hotels that receive foreigners.

Wu says under the orders of the "East Turkistan Islamic Movement" the gangs planned to prepare terrorist attacks before April. He says they were to carry out poisonings, bombings, and other terrorist attacks in Beijing, Shanghai, and other places in May in order to disrupt and wreck the Olympic Games.

The East Turkistan Islamic Movement is a militant group seeking independence for China's western Xinjiang province. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. State Department designated the group a terrorist organization and said it had links to al-Qaida.

But critics say China has produced little evidence of an organized terrorist threat and accuse Beijing of using terrorism as an excuse to use heavy-handed tactics against independence-leaning Muslims. Xinjiang is populated mainly by ethnic Uighur Muslims.

Human rights groups say China has fed the independence movement by suppressing local culture and treating Uighurs as second-class citizens with less access to jobs and education than Han Chinese.