The suspected hijackers who attempted to take over a domestic flight operating over Xinjiang on Friday had used a crutch to threaten passengers and the aircraft crew.
More details of the hijacking have emerged even as rights groups claimed it wasn't a hijack but a brawl over a seat dispute.Officials however claimed that the hijackers, brandishing sharp pieces of the crutch, attempted to force their way into the cockpit within 10 minutes of the flight taking off from Hotan city to the capital of the province, Urumqi.
Passengers apparently used belts to tie the hands of the six suspected hijackers.
Seven persons were injured in foiling the attempt; four were hospitalised.
"All six of the hijackers were ethnically Uyghur, and they tried to break into the cockpit using a broken crutch as a weapon, but were overpowered by passengers and crew," Global Times quoted Hou Hanmin, chief of the regional information office, as saying. Hou added that investigation into the incident was on but it was not clear whether six arrested were part of a terrorist group.
The hijack was a violent terrorist attack, Hou said, adding that four passengers are receiving hospital treatment and their conditions are stable.
This was the second attack on an aircraft operating in the remote and restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR); in March, 2008, a teenage girl attempted an attack on a China Southern airlines flight from Urumqi to Beijing. That attempt was foiled as well.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China, meanwhile, has decided to honor the crew of the flight as "China's Civil Aviation Anti-hijacking Hero Crew," and also expressed appreciation to the passengers who bravely aided the crew.
A Web user under the screen name Cameral claimed on Tencent Weibo that a friend of his on the plane helped to fight the hijackers, three of whom were sitting in the front and the other three in the middle of the vessel.
The Germany-based World Uyghur Congress said it was not a hijacking attempt but a brawl over a seat dispute, which was being blown out of proportion.
Friday's incident occurred occurred less than week before the third anniversary of the July 2009 riots in Urumqi in which at least 192 people were killed in fighting between Han Chinese and the dominant community of the region, Uyghurs.
Tension, according to agency reports, are already high in Hotan, where authorities raided a religious school and are conducting home searches, according to the Washington-based Uyghur American Association.