Was Tiananmen Crash a Terrorist Attack by Chinese Muslims?

USA Today
October 29, 2013

Chinese authorities Tuesday asked local hotels to watch for eight suspects, most from a majority-Muslim western region of the country, as suspicions grew that a deadly car crash and fire near Tiananmen Square was a terror attack.

The vehicle plowed through dozens of pedestrians and police at the center of the capital at lunchtime Monday, killing five people and injuring 38 people, Qianlong.com, a Beijing government news website, reported. Killed were the driver, two passengers, a female tourist from the Philippines and a male tourist from Guangdong province in South China.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and other top Communist Party officials were attending an event Monday morning inside the Great Hall of the People, about 300 yards from where the crash took place. The Soviet-style Great Hall, built under Mao in 1958, is a heavy-weight, Stalinist structure, so solid it is not certain that those inside could have heard Monday’s shocking attack.

The leaders also live and work inside the nearby Zhongnanhai compound, part of the imperial palace complex of China’s Emperors.

The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based newspaper, said a police notice circulated among Beijing hotels Tuesday names eight suspects, most of whom appear to be Uighurs and born in the 1980s. One of the suspects, Liu Ke, has an ethnic Han name and is said to be from southwest China’s Sichuan province, the Post said.

ALeqM5gqtw_XHhAKVrqWoxOoQYEfcw1UqABeijing police confirmed to the Global Times that they had issued the notice to hotels, but did not comment further. Chinese authorities have not said publicly whether the attack was terrorism, and Beijing police declined to comment Tuesday.

Ethnic unrest has plagued the region as China’s majority Han people have immigrated to the area and clashed with the native Uighur people. The Uighur, who are Muslim, have long complained about repressive rule by Beijing. The Chinese government argues it has brought badly needed development, and says violent incidents there are fomented by “hostile foreign forces.”

It is “highly unlikely that some Uyghurs could pull off something like this in the most securely-guarded square in China,” said Alim Seytoff, the DC-based spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, an international organization of exiled Uyghur groups. The police notice “should not be taken as the evidence of Uyghur involvement in the incident,” he said. “I fear the pointing finger at Uyghurs by the Chinese media will create serious backlash against the Uyghur people in China,” Seytoff said.

The eight include Yusupu Aihemaiti, 25 of Pishan County, and Yusupu Wumaierniyazi, 43, from Shanshan County, where Chinese authorities said rioters killed 22 civilians and two policemen in June. The notice told hotel management to watch out for “suspicious” people and vehicles dating back to Oct. 1, and gave four license number plates from Xinjiang.

An investigation is underway, Xinhua, the state news agency, reported. Witnesses said the car drove on the sidewalk for some distance, injuring and scattering pedestrians. Photos posted online showed the vehicle ablaze beside the historic bridges that lead visitors under the famous portrait of Chairman Mao and into the Forbidden City, the former residence of China’s emperors.

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