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Plane hijacking foiled in restive western China

BEIJING -- Passengers and crew foiled a hijacking attempt by six people on a plane in China's restive far-western Xinjiang region Friday, a regional airline and state media said.

The attempt was made just after the plane took off from Hotan in southern Xinjiang for the regional capital of Urumqi and the six suspects were detained after the plane returned safely, the Tianshan regional government's news portal said.

Tianjin Airlines said on its website that the plane returned to Hotan 22 minutes after takeoff.

Tianshan's report did not give further details, such as how the hijacking was foiled, how many passengers were on the plane or what was known about the suspects' motive or ethnicity.

Hotan has been the scene of recent clashes between ethnic Uyghurs and authorities. The Uyghurs say they resent government controls on their religion and culture.

The government says China faces an organized terrorist threat from radical Muslim groups in the region and that it has invested heavily to raise living standards in Xinjiang.

The phone listed for Hotan police rang unanswered Friday. A man who identified himself as a police officer and gave only his family name Wang at Xinjiang Department of Public Security said no more information on the hijacking attempt was available.

In 2008, state media reported that a Uyghur woman made an unsuccessful attempt to hijack a passenger plane flying to Beijing from Urumqi.

In general, threats to civil aviation in China are believed to be rare.

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