Smoke rises from the scene of Monday’s crash at the Forbidden City, in which a sport utility vehicle mounted the pavement and burst into flames. Photograph: Reuters
Police investigating Monday’s car crash at Beijing’s Forbidden City are searching for information on two suspects from the Muslim Uighur minority. A day after a car ploughed through a crowd, crashed and burst into flames, killing five people and injuring 38, government sources have said the “major incident” may have been a suicide attack.
“It looks like a premeditated suicide attack,” a government source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Two bystanders, including a Filipino woman, were killed when a sport utility vehicle veered inside a barrier separating a crowded pavement from a busy avenue and then drove toward Tiananmen Gate, which stands opposite Tiananmen Square. Three passengers inside the car were also killed.
The 38 injured were among the crowds in front of the gate, where a large portrait of Mao Zedong hangs near the southern entrance to the former imperial palace. Three other Filipinos and a Japanese man were among the injured, police said, but there were no immediate details on their conditions.
Zhao Fuzhou, a security official at Beijing’s Xinjiang Dasha hotel, said police had circulated a notice searching for information about two suspects with Uighur names. Unconfirmed copies of the notice also were widely circulated on the internet.
One of the men, identified in the notice as Yusupu Wumaierniyazi, was listed as living at the address of a town in Xinjiang in which 24 police and civilians and 13 militants were killed in an attack on 26 June.
Radicals among the Muslim Turkic Uighurs have been fighting a low-intensity insurgency against Chinese rule for years. This summer saw an unusually large number of violent incidents and Chinese security forces say they have been guarding against attacks outside Xinjiang.
A police statement said the vehicle had burst into flames after crashing at about midday on Monday into a guardrail for one of the ancient stone bridges leading to the gate. The driver apparently jumped a curb and travelled about 400 metres to the spot where the car was said to have caught fire. Along the way, it avoided trees, street lights and at least one security checkpoint.
The adjacent Chang’an Avenue was closed as police and rescue services converged, and re-opened just over an hour later.
Photos of the scene circulated briefly on the internet showing a vehicle emitting thick smoke at the gate. Injured people, including a young girl, lay on the ground, many of them bleeding heavily.
Raúl Hernández, a spokesman at the Philippine department of foreign affairs, said their information indicated that the Filipinos who were killed and injured were tourists. “Our embassy is working to gather more details about this incident and to extend the necessary and appropriate assistance to the victims,” he said in a statement.
Police said the other tourist killed was a Chinese man from the southern province of Guangdong.
Just west of the square lies the Great Hall of the People, the seat of
China’s parliament, and many of country’s top leaders live and work just a few hundred metres away in the tightly guarded Zhongnanhai compound.
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