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China airport ups security after lapse

Security has been tightened at a western Chinese airport after a passenger who boarded a flight there apparently tried to set a fire and crash the plane, reports said Tuesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Security has been tightened at a western Chinese airport after a passenger who boarded a flight there apparently tried to set a fire and crash the plane, reports said Tuesday.

At least one person has been detained over Friday's incident aboard China Southern Airlines flight CZ6901 from Urumqi, the capital of China's traditionally Muslim Xinjiang region, to Beijing, although authorities have released few details.

No one was injured and the plane was diverted to Lanzhou, in western Gansu province, before continuing on to Beijing.

China's head of civil aviation said the crew acted after one or more passengers were found in possession of a "suspicious liquid."

The head of Xinjiang's regional government earlier described the incident as an attempt to crash the plane. Scattered Chinese media reports have said a woman 18 or 19 years old from Xinjiang's main Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group was among those arrested, citing unidentified sources in the security services.

Additional bag checks were in place at Urumqi's Diwopu International Airport, although passenger traffic was light and flights were unaffected, the Chengdu Evening News said on its Web site.

Calls the airport's security department and management office rang unanswered on Tuesday.

The incident raised concerns over passenger safety ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in August. Authorities confirmed it at a meeting where they also announced the killing and arrest of plotters allied with a radical Islamic Xinjiang independence movement who were planning terror attacks around the Games.

It was not clear if there was a link between the two incidents, and authorities have not characterized the alleged attempt to crash the plane as a terrorist act.

In a separate apparent security scare, Xinjiang's airport authority reported on its Web site that airport security in the western city of Yili had detained a man from the region's main Kazakh ethnic group on Saturday for refusing to submit to a search.

It said they found three contraband items hidden in his belt, but did not further identify them. The Yili valley was the site of large-scale anti-Chinese rioting in 1997.

Chinese officials this week pledged continued tough measures to suppress separatist sentiment among Xinjiang's Uighurs, many of whom resent Chinese rule and an influx of settlers from China's main Han ethnic group, from whom they are culturally and religiously distinct.