Critics question China's handling of alleged terror plot
Security experts question whether claims about Friday's domestic airliner incident amount to state propaganda to bolster a pre-Olympics crackdown.
Since Chinese authorities arrested two airline passengers for allegedly plotting to blow up a domestic flight, some analysts and activists are casting doubt on the state's claim that it had thwarted a pre-Olympics terrorist plot.Skip to next paragraph
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The passengers were reportedly arrested after flammable material was found in the airplane's toilet last Friday. The flight originated in western China, a region where pro-independence Uighur rebels are believed to operate, and was bound for Beijing, the host city for this summer's Olympics.
Few details have emerged of the incident, or about why the plane was allowed to continue to Beijing after an emergency landing in the western city of Lanzhou. Questions have also been raised over separate claims that militants in the little-known East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement, a UN-designated terrorist group, are plotting to disrupt the Olympics. Exiled Uighur activists condemned the reports as "falsified" terror plots designed to discredit their cause.
Airport security has been tightened at Urumqi in Xinjiang, the origin of the China Southern Airlines flight, reports the Associated Press. Chinese media, citing security sources, have reported that a young Uighur woman was among those detained. The head of civil aviation said the crew acted after passengers were found with a "suspicious liquid."
"Who the people involved in the incident were, where they were from, what their aim was and what their background was, we are now investigating," he said.
On Monday, a US-based Uighur activist accused Beijing of fabricating terror plots to justify further repression of Uighur communities, reports Al Jazeera. The head of the Uighur American Association, Rebiya Kadeer, said the latest incident was a cover for a political crackdown in Xinjiang. Ms. Kadeer asked why the detained suspects from the aircraft weren't paraded before the cameras.
"It seems that the Chinese government has one goal, which is to create this scenario of terrorism, and produce a terrorist action itself so that it can blame the Uighur people," [Kadeer] said.