Chinese police were seeking two men Tuesday in relation to a fiery car crash in Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square that killed five people and injured 38.
The two men are from the far western region of Xinjiang, investigators said in a police notice widely circulated on Chinese microblogs.
Their names suggested they may be ethnic Uighur, according to the South China Morning Post. Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority who live primarily in Xinjiang province and have been blamed for separatist unrest in the region in the past.
Some media outlets have speculated that the incident may have been a terrorist attack but officials have remained tight-lipped.
Police were also trying to identify three male passengers whose bodies were found in the charred remains of the light-colored SUV which burst into flames in front of the Forbidden City. The crash was near the main entrance, where a huge portrait of Communist China's founder Mao Zedong is displayed.
The incident occurred just weeks before November's key conclave of the ruling Communist Party's elite 205-member Central Committee, when major economic reforms are expected to be announced.
Police urged people to come forward with any clues, saying it would "prevent the suspected persons and vehicles from committing further crimes,” Reuters reported.
They also listed four vehicle license plates from Xinjiang, according to the English-language version of state-run newspaper The Global Times. Additionally, local Beijing hotels were asked to report any suspicious guests who had checked in since Oct. 1.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua said officials were coordinating with the Philippine embassy to repatriate three Filipinos injured in the crash.
China has blamed Uighurs for attacks in Xinjiang in the past, saying the group wants to establish an independent state called East Turkestan. Many Uighurs oppose Chinese controls on their culture and religion but rights groups and exiles say Beijing exaggerates the threat.
In 2009, nearly 200 people were killed in clashes between Uighurs and ethnic Chinese in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province.
Unrest has never spilled into the nation's capital and Tiananmen Square is always under heavy security because of its proximity to the Zhongnanhai compound of the central leadership. The Great Hall of the People overlooks the square, which is also the site of Mao's mausoleum.
Tiananmen Square is still a magnet for protesters -- especially around the June 4 anniversary of the crushing of the student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989 -- though they are normally swiftly bundled away by police.
Reuters contributed to this report.
First published October 29 2013, 7:58 AM