China probes Xinjiang connection to Tiananmen fire, deaths
By Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard (Reuters)BEIJING (Reuters) - 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.
October 29, 2013, 2:35 pm TWN
At least 38 people were injured in the incident, but there has been no official word whether it was an accident or an attack.
However, on Monday night, hours after the fire, Beijing police issued a notice asking local hotels about suspicious guests who had checked in since Oct 1 and named two suspects it said were from Xinjiang. Four hotels told Reuters they had received the notice.
Judging by their names, the suspects appeared to be ethnic Uighurs, who are Turkic-speaking Muslims from Xinjiang, a province in the far west of China. Many Uighurs chafe at Chinese controls on their culture and religion.
"To prevent the suspected persons and vehicles from committing further crimes ... please notify law enforcement of any discovery of clues regarding these suspects and the vehicles," said the notice, which was widely circulated on Chinese microblogs.
The notice also listed four vehicle license plates from Xinjiang.
Beijing police, contacted by telephone, declined to comment.
Calls to the Xinjiang government went unanswered.
The Beijing police said on Monday on their official microblog only that they were investigating the accident, and did not say if they thought it was an attack.
Police said on Monday that the sports utility vehicle veered off the road at the north of the square, a major tourist attraction, crossed the barriers and caught fire almost directly in front of the main entrance of the Forbidden City, in front of a huge portrait of the founder of Communist China, Mao Zedong.
Tiananmen Square was the site of huge pro-democracy protests in 1989 that were brutally crushed by Chinese authorities, and remains one of China's most sensitive and well-guarded locations.
Pictures seen by Reuters showed that the vehicle appeared to have driven several hundred meters (feet) along the pedestrian pavement in front of the Forbidden City entrance before bursting into flames, knocking down people as it went.