Plane hijacking foiled in west China, 6 held

Uighur militants on Friday made a brazen but futile bid to hijack a passenger plane using a broken crutch in China's restive Xinjiang region, creating a mid-air drama which climaxed with alert passengers and crew overpowering the six hijackers.

The incident, that left 10 people injured, occurred in the restive Xinjiang province of western China, where Uighur Muslim militants are fighting against Chinese rule.

The Tianjin Airlines' Flight GS 7554 flight carrying 100 people took off from Hotan airport and was headed to the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, 1400 km away. Just 10 minutes into flight, six hijackers tried to take over the aircraft, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted regional public security bureau as saying.

The hijackers tried to break into the cockpit using a broken crutch as a weapon but were overpowered by the passengers and crew, a statement from Hou Hanmin, a spokeswoman for the Xinjiang regional government was quoted as saying by BBC.

At least ten passengers and crew were injured. While two flight policemen were seriously injured, a head attendant and seven passengers were slightly injured in the fight with the hijackers, police said.

The plane returned to the Hotan airport and the suspects were detained.

Police said they were Uighur separatists.

Xinjiang, the home of Uygurs, a Turkik speaking Muslim community, has experienced ethnic clashes as Uighurs have resented the increasing settlement of Han Chinese majority in their region.

Uighurs allege discrimination and marginalisation and the province witnesses a number of ethnic clashes and violent incidents since 1990s.

Airports in Xinjiang as well as flights to and from the province have the highest security checks in China as the province has experienced several such hijacking attempts in the past.

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