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More details have become available of the unsuccessful attempt to hijack a plane flying from Hotan to Urumqi in Xinjiang by six Uighurs last Friday (June 29,2012). These details have been gathered from two official accounts carried by the Chinese Communist Party owned “Global Times” and from accounts disseminated by Chinese micro-bloggers. One of the micro-bloggers has claimed that one of his relatives was on board the flight and carried pictures of one of the hijackers being overpowered.

2. The details available so far indicate that the hijackers used a crutch, normally used by physically-handicapped persons, and explosives to seize control of the plane 10 minutes after it had taken off from the Hotan airport. It is not clear whether one of the hijackers was really a physically-handicapped person or posed as one in order to carry the crutch on board.

3. It is also not clear how they managed to evade security checks and carry the explosives on board and where they had concealed the explosives. After the attempt, the Ministry of Public Security, which is in charge of internal security, has asked all airport security personnel to make passengers remove their shoes and belts and check them for explosives.

4. Another point that is not clear is whether the hijackers managed to cause an explosion on board. The “Global Times” account says that two of the hijackers died in hospital and two others. “who reportedly mutilated themselves”, are being treated in hospital. This would indicate that there was probably an attempt to activate an explosive device before the hijackers were overpowered.

5. According to the “Global Times”, the six hijackers, who were between 20 and 36 years of age, were from the city of Kashi, Hou Hanmin. It quoted some passengers as saying that the men were quickly subdued as they tried to break into the airplane’s cockpit with a crutch, and their attempt to ignite explosives was foiled. The flight had 92 passengers and nine crew members, 10 of whom were injured. The passengers included six police officers. ( 2-7-12)

( The writer is B.RAMAN Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

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