China executes eight on terrorism charges; all appear to be Uighurs

China executes eight on terrorism charges; all appear to be Uighurs
Police cars block off the roads leading into Tiananmen Square as smoke rises where a vehicle exploded in front of Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on Oct. 28, 2013, in what authorities said was a terrorist attack. (Stringer / AFP/Getty Images)

Eight people convicted of terrorism, including three accused of masterminding last October's deadly vehicle explosion in Tiananmen Square, have been executed, China's state-run media said Saturday.

It was not clear exactly when or where the executions were carried out, but they were approved by the supreme court in Xinjiang province, in China's far northwest, the official New China News Agency reported.


A recent spate of bombings and stabbings have been attributed to separatists among the Uighur population, a Turkic-speaking and mostly Muslim ethnic minority the region. Since the beginning of 2013, nearly 300 people have been killed in violence for which authorities blame Uighur militants.

All eight of those executed appeared to be Uighurs. They had been convicted of offenses that included killing a government official, making explosives illegally and organizing terrorist groups, authorities said.

Huseyin Guxur, Yusup Wherniyas and Yusup Ehmet were put to death for organizing the Oct. 28, 2013, attack that killed five people and injured 39 in Tiananmen Square. In that incident, a jeep plowed through a crowd of tourists and erupted in flames in front of the Forbidden City. Two tourists and the three people in the vehicle died.

Their convictions and death sentences were reported in June, though at the time New China News Agency gave slightly different spellings of their names. The trio allegedly began plotting the attack in 2011.

The others whose executions were announced Saturday had been convicted of offenses in Xinjiang, the news agency said. They were:

Abdumomin Imin and Bilal Berdi, who were found guilty of burning two checkpoints and two police vehicles in 2011 and murdering an officer with the forestry bureau in Hotan in December 2013.

Rozi Eziz, who had been convicted of "gun seizing" and the intentional killing of police officers in Aksu in June 2013.

Abdusalam Elim, who according to state-run media had led a terrorist ring since 2011, watched extremist audio-visual materials of a religious nature, "conducted illegal religious activities" and raised funds for terrorist training and making explosives.

Memet Tohtiyusup, who allegedly watched extremist videos and was found guilty of an April 2013 slaying.

Ethnic and cultural tensions have been rising in Xinjiang for years as more Han Chinese have moved into the region, rendering Uighurs a minority in most areas. Many Uighurs complain that the central government has stifled religious and cultural freedom, and more extremist elements have been fighting for independence.

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