BEIJING – A failed attempt to crash a commercial jet in China was an act of sabotage by foreigners seeking independence for the country's Xinjiang province in Central Asia, the region's top politician said in comments published Thursday.
A male suspect confessed to masterminding the plot to crash the China Southern flight on March 7, the Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Xinjiang's Communist Party Secretary Wang Lequan.
The failed plot was part of a terror campaign to turn Xinjiang into an independent nation called East Turkestan, the news agency reported.
"According to the investigation, it is now clear that this is a serious sabotage activity carried out by East Turkestan splittists outside of China," Wang said in comments published separately on a provincial government news Web site.
Wang did not specify the nationalities of the three suspects who have been detained in the plot.
Xinjiang is a predominantly Muslim region with a culture that is distinctly different from that of China's ethnic Han majority. Beijing has faced a simmering independence movement among the Uighurs, the region's largest Muslim ethnic group.
China's state media has reported that a 19-year-old woman from the Turkic Muslim Uighur minority group was seized on March 7 after trying to set fire to the Boeing 757 flying from Xinjiang's capital to Beijing.
The unidentified woman had drained soda cans, used a syringe to fill them with gasoline and poured the contents into the bathroom, next to the fuel-filled wings, the Global Times reported.
No one was injured and the plane was diverted to Lanzhou.
Since then, China has increased security at its airports in addition to the stringent security plans being put in place for the Olympic Games in August.
Passengers are now banned from carrying any kind of liquid aboard domestic flights, and passenger and luggage searches are being increased.