Two alleged hijackers among the six who tried to take over a domestic flight flying over Xinjiang in northwest China have died from injuries, reports said on Monday.
It has also emerged now that the six suspected hijackers were carrying material suspected to be explosives.
Officials didn’t explain how they managed to get the material inside the flight. The details of the deaths remain sketchy as well. The state-run Global Times newspaper reported about the death of the two suspects but didn’t say when they died; details were also not available about the nature of the injuries the two sustained.
It’s only known that they were overpowered by passengers and crew members as they tried to barge into the cockpit and take over the flight.
Two more of the suspected hijackers were still in the hospital. While officials have said all six were Uyghurs, members of the dominant community in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, none have been identified by name. All that is known about them is that they are between the mid 20s and early 30s and were residents of the ancient city of Kashgar.
They apparently dismantled a pair of aluminum crutches and used the pieces to attack people while trying to break into the cockpit. The takeover effort was foiled and the plane carrying 92 passengers and nine crew members safely returned to Hotan city in southern Xinjiang.
According to the newspaper, following the incident, the Civil Aviation Administration of China asked airports in major cities and provincial capitals to upgrade their security checks for flights bound for Xinjiang.
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 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 are high in Hotan, where authorities raided a religious school.