Five suspects, all Uyghurs from Xinjiang, are currently being held in connection to the car crash at Tiananmen Square on Monday which authorities are now calling a “terrorist attack”.
Xinhua reports that the five people, all Uyghurs from various parts of the Xinjiang region, were arrested 10 hours after the jeep crashed in a pedestrian walkway near the square’s gated tower, exploding in flames and killing five people.
“The incident was a premeditated terrorist attack that was carefully planned and organized,” a police spokesman was quoted as saying to Xinhua.
Usmen Hasan, his mother and wife drove a jeep with a Xinjiang plate to crash into a crowd of people at noon on Monday, killing two people and injuring another 40…
The jeep crashed into a guardrail of Jinshui Bridge across the moat of the Forbidden City. The three people in the jeep died after they set gasoline on fire, the spokesman said.
Inside of the vehicle, police found a petrol container, two meat cleavers, a metal bar and a flag with extremist religious messages printed on it.
According to SCMP:
Police said the three killed in the vehicle were from the same family. The driver was identified as Usmen Hasan. His wife, Gulkiz Gini, and mother, Kuwanhan Reyim – both from far western Xinjiang – were also in the car.
Authorities, who launched a massive manhunt for the suspects, found knives and another jihadist flag at the residence of another suspect.
The police notice mentioned four women and three men from Xinjiang, a heavily Muslim region that has been the site of several violent clashes with police.
The two women who died in the jeep were among the seven named. Those detained were three men and two women. Hotels have been asked to look out for suspects, including Liu Ke, a 21-year-old Sichuan native.
Since news of possible Uyghur suspects was released, the Uyghur community of Beijing has described harassment suffered at the hands of the police.
Since the attack, the police have “come to search us every day. We don’t know why. Our IDs are checked every day, and we don’t know what is happening,” a Uyghur trader in Beijing was quoted as saying in the Times Union. “We have trouble every day, but we haven’t done anything,” he said. According to the report:
The police scrutiny of the Uighurs in Beijing highlights the years of discrimination that have fueled Uighur demands for independence for their northwestern homeland of Xinjiang. Many Uighurs say they face routine discrimination, irksome restrictions on their culture and Muslim religion, and economic disenfranchisement that has left them largely poor even as China’s economy booms.
One expert said that an attack in an eastern population center is “something that the Chinese authorities have been worried about for a long time”.
“I am also upset. They crashed a car, and we end up being harassed by police every day now, saying that we Xinjiang people are like that,” the Uyghur trader was quoted as saying.