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Attempt to crash Beijing-bound plane foiled
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Xinjiang's top leaders revealed yesterday that an attempt on Friday to crash a passenger jet bound for Beijing had been foiled.

The China Southern Airlines flight took off at 10:35 am from Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and was forced to make an emergency landing at Lanzhou, capital of neighboring Gansu province, at 12:40 pm, because "some people were attempting to create an air disaster," said Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xinjiang regional government.

The attackers were stopped in time by the air police, and all the passengers and crew members on board are safe, he told reporters after a panel discussion of the Xinjiang delegation to the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature.

The plane arrived in Beijing on Saturday. Bekri, however, declined to give more details, only saying that the authorities are investigating "who the attackers are, where they are from and what their background is".

"But we can be sure that this was a case intending to create an air crash," he added.

The Xinhua News Agency, quoting an official with the Xinjiang regional government, said yesterday that suspects are being held in Lanzhou, without giving their number.

Wang Lequan, Xinjiang's Party chief, also warned yesterday that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement terror group has been planning attacks.

"The terrorists, saboteurs and secessionists will be dealt with resolutely, no matter what ethnic group they are from," said Wang.

A terrorist gang was smashed by police in a January 27 raid in Urumqi. Two were killed and 15 arrested in the operation.

The gang was found to have manufactured explosives and hand grenades, Wang said.

Bekri said those in Xinjiang pursuing separatism and sabotage "are an extremely small number".

"They may be Uygurs, but they can't represent Uygurs. They are nothing but the scum of the Uygurs," said Bekri, himself a Uygur.

The chairman pledged to adopt a strike-first policy toward the "three evil forces" of terrorists, separatists and extremists.

(China Daily March 10, 2008)

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