Friday, March 14, 2008

More on the Ruh-Roh front. Muslim woman tries to blow up Chinese plane

Smuggled gasoline into plane in soda cans.

Chinese authorities have alleged a 19-year-old Muslim woman aboard a commercial airliner heading for Beijing planned to blow the plane up, state press reported Thursday.

The woman intended to explode a petrol bomb in the toilet of a China Southern Airlines flight from Urumqi city in the country's far northwest on Friday last week, the official Xinhua news agency and the Global Times said.

The reports were the most detailed to emerge about the incident...

...amid claims by rights groups and dissidents that the Chinese government was exaggerating a terror threat in its Muslim-populated Xinjiang region to justify a crackdown.

Thursday's reports, similar accounts of which were carried in other state-run Chinese media outlets, said the toilet was directly above the plane's wing where the fuel tanks were located.

"This (attack) had been under preparation for a long period, the planning was very detailed and was closely linked to terrorist activities," the Global Times said, citing an unnamed official with knowledge of the case.

The plan was "clearly a terrorist plot," and police were interrogating the girl involved to find out who helped her plan the attack, he reportedly said.

The woman had sneaked two cans of a popular soft drink that had been filled with gasoline on to the plane, according to the Global Times, which belongs to the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece, the People's Daily.

The reported incident occurred during an apparent crackdown -- ahead of the Beijing Olympics -- on dissent among the ethnic Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang, who make up the majority of the population of the region that borders Central Asia.

The woman involved in Friday's reported failed attack was a Uighur, according to the press reports.

Two militants allegedly belonging to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a UN designated terrorist group, were killed and 15 arrested in a January raid in Urumqi, capital of the vast region, according to the official Chinese account.

Chinese officials said on the weekend that those killed and arrested in the raid were planning an attack on the Olympics, but the government has since refused to provide further details.

Exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer said from Washington this week that China had fabricated the alleged plot against the Olympics to blacken her community's name and justify a crackdown to silence all forms of dissent.