China says Eastern Turkestan behind airline incident in Xinjiang

2008-03-20 05:15:05 Xinhua English

BEIJING, March 20 (Xinhua) -- The passenger flight incident earlier this month was planned by Eastern Turkestan separatist forces, a Chinese official said here on Thursday.

"An investigation found that the attempt to cause an air disaster on the Southern Airlines flight on March 7 was a grave act of attempted sabotage instigated and conducted by Eastern Turkestan separatists from abroad," Wang Lequan, Party chief of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the remote northwestern part of the country, told Xinhua.

Two suspects, a 19-year-old woman and a man, were detained by police after the plane cut short its journey and landed at Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province two hours after taking off from Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang.

The passenger plane arrived at its destination of Beijing with all the passengers and crew members safe the next morning.

The third suspect was detained within a week. He fully admitted that he masterminded, instigated and carried out the crime, according to Wang.

Wang did not provide any further information about the investigation, saying police were trying to find out more clues behind the aborted sabotage attempt.

Sources from the airliner said that crew members smelt gasoline on the woman who was leaving a toilet during the flight and then found a can containing the flammable liquid in a dustbin of the restroom.

The beverage in the can had been replaced with the flammable liquid using a syringe.

The General Administration of Civil Aviation of China issued a notice last Friday, banning passengers from taking liquids on to aircraft on domestic flights for safety concerns.