|Agencies and Eddie Luk
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
A nationwide manhunt is underway for nine people from Xinjiang after Monday’s suicide attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.This comes as reports emerged that police fired two shots at a jeep that plowed into a crowd before bursting into flames, killing the driver and two passengers.
Two visitors to the square were also killed, and 38 people injured.
Beijing police said two of the three who died in the jeep came from the restive far western province of Xinjiang.
The jeep’s tank was full of petrol, which led police to believe the incident was a suicide attack, sources told Reuters. However, there has been no official confirmation.
Eight of the nine on the wanted list are Uygurs, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a notice given to hotel operators by police yesterday.
They come from several regions in Xinjiang, including Pishan and Shanshan.
A government spokesman in Xinjiang confirmed that officials there are working with Beijing police.
In another notice given to hotels, police identified two suspects and four car number plates, all from Xinjiang.
Police suspect it was an attack by Xinjiang independence supporters. US- based Chinese human rights portal Boxun said the two suspects were Uygurs who had submitted petitions to the authorities in the past.
One was identified as Yusupu Wumaierniyazi from Shanshan county, about 250 kilometers southeast of Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, where at least 35 people died in clashes with police on June 26 when
knife-wielding crowds attacked police stations and other sites in Lukqun township.
The other was identified as Yusupu Aiheputi of Pishan, one of the poorest counties, where police battled with young hostage-takers in 2011. Both were described as peasants.
Boxun said the three in the jeep were driven to desperation by their poverty.
The Information Center of Human Rights and Democracy in China said one was related to an activist killed by the authorities in Xinjiang for organizing religious activities.
The license plate on the jeep was XinA45559 but sources said it had also used three other plates, all starting with the regional character Xin.
“To prevent suspected persons and vehicles from committing further crimes, please notify law enforcement of any discovery or clues regarding these suspects and vehicles,” police said in a notice circulated on microblogs.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declined to comment on whether the incident was a terrorist attack, but defended governance of the Xinjiang region.
“We admit that there are some violent and terrorist cases in Xinjiang,” she said.
“We believe that any government would crack down on such incidents to ensure the safety and security of society and the property and lives of people.”
Security has been stepped up around Tiananmen Square. Police inspected visitors’ identity documents and police vehicles and fire engines were parked nearby yesterday.