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September 26, 2017

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Three set to die for Tiananmen attack: CCTV

BEIJING--Three people were sentenced to death Monday over a suicide car crash in Beijing's symbolic heart Tiananmen Square, state-run media said, in China's latest move against militants from restive, mainly Muslim Xinjiang.

One other person was given life in prison for the "violent terrorist attack" that killed two tourists last October, said state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), citing the Intermediate People's Court in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi.

The three sentenced to death were convicted of "organizing and leading a terrorist group and endangering public security with dangerous methods," according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Four other people were given prison terms ranging from five to 20 years, Xinhua said.

Both it and CCTV identified several of the accused with names that sounded Uighur, the largest ethnic group in the violence-racked region.

All three people in the car — a man, his wife and his mother — died in the attack, which saw their vehicle plough into crowds of tourists, killing two and wounding 40 other people before bursting into flames, authorities said at the time.

CCTV showed the eight accused — two of them women — sitting in a vast courtroom as prosecutors presented the evidence against them. An unidentified woman wearing a headscarf in the audience wiped away tears.

For the first time security camera video was broadcast of the attack, showing a white SUV turning onto a pavement at high speed and barreling into crowds of pedestrians, who scattered before it.

Prosecutors also displayed several weapons, including a large sword. No details of what exact roles the eight played were immediately available.

The far-western region is the resource-rich homeland of the country's mostly Muslim Uighur minority, and periodically sees ethnic tensions and discontent with the government burst into violence.

"This violence is expanding beyond Xinjiang," said Shan Wei, a political scientist at the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute.

"If you do something within Xinjiang, most Chinese people won't know about that," he said. "But if you do something in a major city — for example in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou — that will be headline news. And that will be more effective to create terror among Han Chinese people."

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