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Eight indicted in China over Tiananmen suicide attack

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Eight people have been indicted for an October 2013 attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in which a car packed with cans of petrol ploughed into a crowd, killing two bystanders as well as the three assailants, state-run news reports said Saturday.

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Three ethnic Uighurs from western Xinjiang province drove a car loaded with petrol canisters into the gates of the Forbidden City in the October 28 attack, which also left 40 people injured.

Chinese authorities have blamed what they called the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Muslim Uighur separatist group, for the incident.

In a statement released Friday, Xinjiang prosecutors said the eight accused were suspected of “organising, leading and participating [in] a terrorist group and endangering public security with dangerous method[s]”, the Xinhua state news agency reported. A court in Urumqi, the regional capital, would try the case, the statement said.

The names of the suspects were not released.

Xinjiang is home to China’s minority Muslim Uighurs, some whom are seeking an independent state.

The Uighurs are culturally closer to ethnic groups across Central Asia and Turkey than to the Han Chinese who make up the vast majority of China’s population. 

Anti-terrorism campaign

The government in Xinjiang on Saturday also unveiled new policies that will form part of a year-long, nationwide anti-terrorism campaign launched this week, offering rewards for weapons turned in to the police and mandating that companies hire more locals in a bid to address the economic concerns that are thought to lead to unrest.

A crowd gathers around the burning vehicle. Twitter
A crowd gathers around the burning vehicle. Twitter

The Xinjiang police have started offering cash rewards for weapons and information on caches of weapons, Xinhua reported.

Bullets will fetch five 5 yuan ($0.80) apiece, grenades and landmines are good for 100 yuan, and people who offer tips that prevent or break up an “explosives-related terrorist case” can earn as much as 30,000 yuan.

The government has traditionally taken a more forceful approach toward Xinjiang-related unrest, but Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday pledged to alleviate poverty and improve ethnic unity in the region. He said employment should be a priority.

Analysts have long warned that the economic marginalisation of Xinjiang’s Uighurs is one of the main causes of the violence.

Among the new measures Xinjiang announced was the creation of a special development fund to ensure that locals make up no less than 70 percent of new hires at companies operating in the region, Xinhua reported.

A senior official with the regional branch of the government body that manages state-owned enterprises said minorities should account for 25 percent of employees.

Anti-terrorism measures have focused specifically on Xinjiang province following a series of bloody attacks that Beijing blames on the region’s Islamists and separatists, the deadliest of which occurred on May 22 when the government said five suicide bombers hit a market in Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi, killing 39 people.

A few weeks earlier a bomb went off at a train station in Urumqi, killing three people and wounding 79 others.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

 

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