Anti-terror police in Xinjiang claimed to have scored a “major victory” after officers swooped on a “significant terrorist group” and raided two bomb factories, according to the local Communist Party mouthpiece, the Xinjiang Daily.
Police arrested five suspects who allegedly planned to bomb a crowded public place in the troubled region’s Hotan prefecture, the report said. Officers seized 1.8 tonnes of explosive material.
The planned attack, allegedly to be led by Abuliz Dawut, was said to have been modelled on the deadly explosions that rocked an open-air market in Urumqi last week, according to the Xinjiang Daily.
The gang were reported to have planned to drive into crowds before detonating their handmade explosive devices. The police also found the suspects travelled to Urumqi and other mainland cities to purchase explosive material.
Police have also broken up terror groups based in Aksu, Kashgar and Ili. They allegedly participated in terror activities, distributed audio and video products containing terrorist content, manufactured explosives and tried to flee abroad, the paper added.
China has announced a one year anti-terror campaign. Xinjiang, where separatist movements have been active, is the “main battlefield”, Xinhua reported.
The state-run Global Times newspaper said the language barrier, poverty and enthusiasm for religion made Pishan County, the home of the alleged lead terror suspect Abuliz Dawut, a hotbed for terrorism.
The paper said: “Most of the secondary school graduates could not write their own names in Chinese, especially in rural areas …If it were not for the policy that residents who have not finished junior high school cannot get marriage certificates, many may have quit school long ago.”
Meanwhile, the authorities have expanded the campaign to include local cadres with an “ambiguous stance” on the terrorist attacks.
In an interview with Tianshan news portal, a government-run website, chief of the regional Commission for Discipline Inspection Ma Guowei said the authority had punished 65 cadres for violation of the party’s “political discipline” since last year.
Last July Ahtam Hlili, a local military recruitment officer in Aksu, was removed from his post for sending emails that promoted “holy war”.
Now Batur Duwamat, deputy office chief of Ili Prefecture government, has been placed under investigation after officials received “complaints from cadres and the public that he made certain comments inconsistent with the country’s ethnic policies in public”.
The region saw its bloodiest day in five years last Thursday when five suicide bombers ploughed two off-road vehicles into crowds while throwing explosives out of the windows in a busy street market in Urumqi.
The attack, which left 39 people dead and 94 injured, was the second suicide bombing in the Xinjiang capital in less than a month. Late last month, a bomb and knife attack at the train station killed one bystander and wounded 79.
The authority announced on Saturday four of the suicide bombers were killed at the scene and the fifth was captured on Thursday night.
Security has also been stepped up in Beijing.
The capital’s police aviation team has sent five helicopters to patrol crowded areas several times since the weekend, the Beijing News reported.
The helicopters can transport snipers to an emergency, the paper quoted team leader Yang Dongfeng as saying.
The team has multiple patrol routes that cover the city’s major transport hubs, markets and parks, the paper added.