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Five arrested over Tiananmen Square 'terrorist attack,' Chinese authorities say

1:06

BEIJING, China -- Five people were arrested in relation to a fiery car crash in Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square that killed five people and injured 40, police said early Wednesday.

Police said the five were caught just 10 hours after the attack with help from the local government in the restive western province of Xinjiang.

Labeling it a “terrorist attack,” a police spokesman said Usmen Hasan, his mother Kuwanhan Reyim, and his wife Gulkiz Gini, drove a jeep with a Xinjiang plate into a crowd of people at noon on Monday, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The attack, which took place near the main entrance of the Forbidden City, was "carefully planned, organized and premeditated," he said.

The five suspects arrested in connection with the attack were named as Husanjan Wuxur, Gulnar Tuhtiniyaz, Yusup Umarniyaz, Bujanat Abdukadir and Yusup Ahmat.

Police found equipment full of gasoline, two knives and steel sticks as well as a flag with extremist religious content in the light-colored SUV, state broadcaster CCTV reported. 

The charred bodies found in the vehicle died after they set gasoline on fire, the police spokesman told CCTV, adding that officers also found knives and at least one "jihad" flag in the temporary residence of the five detained suspects.

Officials also did not speculate on media reports that the suspects' names suggested they were ethnic Uighur.

Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority who live primarily in Xinjiang province and have been blamed for separatist unrest in the region.

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.

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