Tue, Aug 11, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Xinjiang turns away plane arriving from Afghanistan, claims bomb threat

AP AND AFP , BEIJING AND BISHKEK

An Afghan plane bound for Xinjiang was sent back to Afghanistan after a bomb threat, Chinese media said yesterday, but the airline rebutted the report.

Kam Air deputy chief Feda Mohammad Fedawi said the plane, carrying 160 passengers, left Kabul and was crossing Kyrgyzstan on its way to the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi when it was told to turn back on Sunday.

Xinhua news agency said there had been a bomb threat and Urumqi airport authorities were told not to let the plane land.

Kyrgyz authorities told the crew that Chinese authorities would not allow them into their airspace, Fedawi said.

The plane could not return to the Afghan capital because of windy weather and was diverted to the southern city of Kandahar, he said, adding that there had not been a bomb threat.

Fedawi said the plane’s passengers and crew were fine and the plane was expected to return to Kabul yesterday.

He said the plane had been inspected by Afghan officers and a foreign security company before departure in a security check he described as unusually thorough.

A press officer for NATO forces in Afghanistan, which control Kandahar airport, said the alliance had received no report of a plane forced to land there.

A Xinjiang regional government duty officer who declined to be named said he had no information about the incident. Calls to the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau rang unanswered. Calls to the Urumqi airport information desk also rang unanswered.

Meanwhile, police in Kyrgyzstan yesterday arrested two leading Uighur activists after an unauthorized protest against Chinese oppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

More than 1,000 people, waving banners with slogans such as “Free Uighurstan,” turned out for the protest in the center of Bishkek before police dispersed the crowd, a reporter witnessed.

Uighur community leader Dilmurat Akbarov and his deputy Zhamaldin Nasiyrov were detained in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek for holding an “unsanctioned” meeting, the former Soviet state’s human rights ombudsman Tursunbek Akun said.

“In Bishkek after the carrying out of an unsanctioned demonstration in support of Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region the heads of the Uighur diaspora community ... were detained,” he said.

Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished Central Asian state bordering China, is home to a sizeable population of Uighurs.

The unrest in Xinjiang last month and China’s crackdown sparked unprecedented protests among Uighurs in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

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