More than 48 hours after a car plowed down pedestrians and burst into flames at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government broke its near-silence on the incident and characterized it as a “terrorist attack.”
Chinese state media on Wednesday identified the people in the car as members of one family — the driver, Usmen Hasan; his mother, Kuwanhan Reyim; and his wife, Gulkiz Gini. All three were killed, along with two tourists.
Chinese authorities also said five people were arrested as accessories in Beijing on Monday night.
“The arrests were made 10 hours after the incident, which has now been identified as a terrorist attack,” state broadcaster CCTV said on an English-language microblog account.
The attack was “carefully planned, organized and premeditated,” police were quoted as saying by the New China News Agency.
The names of those arrested suggest that they are Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority from the Xinjiang region of northwestern China, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. The news service said they found gasoline, knives and steel sticks as well as a “flag with extremist content” in the vehicle involved in Monday’s crash.
A young man from Shandong province who narrowly escaped injury in Monday’s attack told the Los Angeles Times that he had seen a black flag with Arabic script waving from the front passenger window shortly before the car burst into flames.
The statement said that a similar “jihad” flag was found in a temporary apartment of the five suspects, along with knives.
Two of the arrested suspects, identified as Yusup Marniyaz and Yusup Ahmat, had been named Monday in an emergency notice asking Beijing hotels to keep a lookout for them.