UK
29/10/2013 07:15 GMT | Updated 30/10/2013 15:02 GMT

Beijing Tiananmen Square Car Crash 'Could Have Been Uighur Muslim Suicide Attack'

The culprits responsible for a car that ploughed into a crowd of tourists at Beijing's Forbidden City could be suicide attackers from China's Muslim Uighur minority, police sources have told reporters.

Five people were killed, three of them passengers of the car, and 38 injured after a sports utility vehicle ploughed into a group of pedestrians in Tiananmen Square in the capital.

Shocking images posted online showed a vehicle in flames, amid barricades in front of the iconic Tiananmen Gate.

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Police cars block off the roads leading into Tiananmen Square as smoke rises into the air after a vehicle crashed in front of Tiananmen Gate in Beijing

"It looks like a premeditated suicide attack," a government source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It was no accident. The jeep knocked down barricades and rammed into pedestrians. The three men had no plans to flee from the scene."

The source's account tallies with eyewitnesses, many of whose accounts have now been censored on Chinese social meda. One witness told the New York Times the driver had deliberately steered the vehicle more than 400 yards along the pavement. “This was not some driver who took a wrong turn and accidentally ended up on the sidewalk."

One eyewitness, said she saw the vehicle knock down three or four people, and that it had a white banner with black lettering on it streaming from the back, according to Reuters.

"Beijing has not called it a terrorist attack. Would the government want to say there has been a terrorist attack in the political heart of Beijing, even if it turns out that is what is was?" journalist Bill Bishop observed in his Sinocism newsletter.

Police say the two killed were a Filipino woman tourist and a Chinese man from the southern province of Guangdong.

Various news agencies reported that police were circulating the names of two suspects, Turkic-speaking Uighur names.

One, Yusupu Wumaierniyazi, in the same town in Xinjiang, where 24 people, both police and civilians, and 13 militants were killed in a terror attack.

Uighurs, who has a distinct culture and language, have an active separatist movement, regularly blamed by China for attacks over the years in Xinjiang, a far western province.

But Uighur separatists have never before been blamed for any attacks in Beijing, despite some speculation that separatists set off a bus bomb in the capital in 1997.