Authorities in China are looking out for two men belonging to the country's ethnic Uighur Muslim minority from the country's restive Xinjiang province on suspected terror charges as they investigate whether the SUV which crashed and then caught fire at Beijing's historic Tiananmen Square on Monday killing its three occupants and two tourists, and injuring 38 others, was actually a suicide attack.
Reports say police have spread a dragnet across Beijing, with hotels and vehicles being searched.
Police check tourists' identification cards and bags at a security check point in front of Tiananmen Gate, in Beijing, October 29, 2013. Chinese police are looking for two suspects from its restive Xinjiang region in connection with a "major incident", after five people were killed when a vehicle ploughed into pedestrians and caught fire in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
Xinjiang, in China's far west, is a Muslim majority province, home to the ethnic Uighur minority community. The province is restive as they resent Chinese authority and repression of their religion and culture. Extremist groups in the region have been carrying out alleged terror attacks campaigning for a separate Muslim state called East Turkestan.
As reported earlier, Chinese authorities have in the recent past arrested several members of the Uighur community on charges of promoting jihad online. Recent reports said, security agencies have arrested over 139 activists over the past few weeks on the charges.
Based on China's request, Pakistan had recently banned three Islamic outfits alleged to have been carrying out insurgent activities in the Xinjiang Province. The three banned outfits are the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Islamic Jihad Union (IJU). These outfits also include several female insurgents and suicide squads. China blames these organizations for inciting local population on religious grounds and carrying out extremist activities.
Reuters report quoted two senior sources on Tuesday saying that Monday's crash, which was initially thought of as an accident was now suspected of being a suicide attack.
"It looks like a pre-meditated suicide attack," Reuters quoted a source with direct knowledge of the matter as saying on condition of anonymity to avoid repercussions for talking to the foreign media.
Although there have been suicide attacks in China in the past, most of them have been carried out by people with personal grievances. Monday's suspected terror attack is the first of its kind to target China's power structure. Tiananmen Square is at the heart of China's power structure, and was the focal point of the mass pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989.
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