BEIJING (AP) — China's top security official said the militant East Turkestan Islamic Movement organized the suicidal vehicle attack that killed five people in the heart of Beijing this week.
Meng Jianzhu, chief of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the ruling Communist Party, named the group in an interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television when he was in the capital of Uzbekistan attending a regional security summit and seeking cooperation in counter-terrorism.
"The violent terrorist incident that happened in Beijing is an organized and plotted act. Behind the instigation is the terrorist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement entrenched in central and west Asian regions," Meng said, in a video footage aired Thursday by Phoenix Television.
The SUV plowed through bystanders, crashed and burst into flames near the Tiananmen Gate on Monday, killing three in the car and two tourists, including a Filipino woman, and injuring dozens.
Beijing police said the perpetrators were a man with an ethnic Uighur name, his wife and his mother. Police also have arrested five people — identified with typically Uighur names — on suspicion of conspiring in the attack and called it a planned terror strike — the city's first in recent history.
Uighurs are an ethnic minority residing mainly in China's northwest region of Xinjiang, and they have close cultural and language ties to Turkic peoples of Central Asia.
China believes the East Turkestan Islamic Movement aims to establish an independent East Turkestan in Xinjiang, and blames the group for the low-intensity insurgency in the region.
The United States placed the movement on a terrorist watch list following the Sept. 11 attacks, but quietly removed it amid doubts that it existed in any organized manner.
Instead, human rights groups have questioned whether China uses the security threat as an excuse to suppress the Uighurs and said Uighur extremism has been fueled by China's heavy-handed policies in Xinjiang and discrimination against Uighurs by the country's ethnic Han majorities.