BEIJING – Police in China's restive northwest foiled a terror plot by detaining five suspects and seizing 1.8 tons of bomb-making materials, the regional government said Tuesday, five days after a market bombing in the region killed dozens of people.
Authorities in the Hotan section of the Xinjiang region destroyed two bomb-making workshops in the latest raid on Monday, the regional government said on its official Tianshan Net website.
The Muslim region, home to the Turkish-speaking ethnic minority of Uighurs, has seen rising violence that China blames on secession-seeking terrorists. Uighurs complain of restrictive and discriminatory policies and practices by the government and the dominant ethnic majority of Han Chinese.
An attack last week in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi blamed on Uighur terrorists left 43 people dead when men rammed vehicles through a vegetable market and tossed explosives. Police say four of the men were killed in the explosions and a fifth was arrested. All five were from the Hotan area, police say.
Tianshan said the suspects detained in Hotan had planned a similar scheme. It said the suspects had watched materials promoting violence and religious extremism. The report did not identify the suspects' identity but all have Uighur names.
Following last week's attack, China announced a one-year security crackdown focusing on suspected terrorists, religious extremist groups, dens that manufacture guns and explosives and terrorist training camps. On Monday, state media said local authorities had broken up 23 terror and religious extremist groups and caught over 200 suspects so far this month.
Hotan residents on Tuesday said they were told that popular instant messaging services could be restricted starting Wednesday, although they were unclear whether that meant a suspension of the services.
Authorities have said cellphone devices have been used to distribute information inciting violence and fanning ethnic hatred.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Uighur rights advocacy group World Uyghur Congress, said the operation was politically motivated and would detain more Uighurs without due legal process. Critics say they are worried that any abuse in the strike-hard campaign may marginalize the Uighurs.