Terrorism and Beijing Olympics

Chinese officials were keen Monday to push aside security concerns for this summer's Olympic Games after the announcement of two thwarted terror attacks.

"An efficient Olympic security command system is in place," Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing's Olympic Organizing Committee told The Associated Press. "We're confident of holding a peaceful and safe Olympic Games."

News that a flight crew may have halted an attempt to down a Chinese jetliner emerged this Sunday, two full days after the flight made an emergency landing.

At the same event, a Communist Party leader said police had raided a "terrorist gang" that was plotting to disrupt the Olympics.

The incidents were unconnected, but both plots apparently took root in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The announcement of the flight incident did not come from the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration but during a discussion of Xinjiang issues at the national parliamentary session.

"Some people were attempting to create an air disaster," Nur Bekri, the governor of Xinjiang told the round table participants as reporters looked on.

China Southern Flight CZ6901 took off from Xinjiang's capital Urumqi Friday, en route to Beijing. The flight made an emergency landing in Lanzhou, in the neighboring Gansu Province at 12:40 p.m. The passengers and crew members were unharmed and flew to Beijing the next day.

Authorities released few details, but the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration carried a statement on its Web site saying the flight made an emergency landing after "flammable materials were discovered in the toilet."

Aviation officials spoke only on condition of anonymity to the few Chinese media outlets that reported the incident.

The Southern Metro newspaper in Guangzhou quoted a source saying that a flight attendant caught an 18- to 19-year-old woman, described as Uighur, attempting to set a gas canister on fire in the bathroom. The paper reported that at least two suspects were taken into custody.

With few details released by authorities, the Chinese blogosphere is rife with speculation and unsubstantiated rumor surrounding the incident. One blog, supposedly written by a passenger on the plane, read, "four Uighurs disguised as Pakistani businessmen...brought gasoline to the plane. They planned to ignite it upon landing in Beijing airport. They wanted to crash the plane during the NPC (National People's Congress) annual session and on the eve of the Olympics."

After the airliner incident was revealed, Wang Lequan, Xinjiang's Communist Party chief, said that members of a "terrorist gang" were plotting to attack the Olympics, which are scheduled to be held in Beijing in August. The group is said to have been collaborating with the East Turkestan Islamic movement, which the United Nations labels a terrorist organization. East Turkestan is another name for the Chinese-administered Xinjiang Province, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to the state-controlled Chinese news agency Xinhua, when Chinese security troops raided the group in January, they seized knives, axes, grenades and books about terrorism. They also killed two militants, and arrested 15 others.

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