Two plane hijackers 'beaten to death by passengers' in China

Two plane hijackers 'beaten to death by passengers' in ChinaStock photo: PA

Two men who allegedly tried to hijack a plane in western China have died days after their arrest.

Six men were arrested last Friday after the foiled hijack of a Tianjin Airline flight from Hotan to Urumqi in the Xinjiang region.

According to the Telegraph, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported that two of the suspects died in hospital from injuries they suffered during the ensuing fight with passengers and crew on board.

A Xinjiang government spokeswoman, Hou Hanmin, said two more suspects were being treated in hospital after reportedly mutilating themselves.

Hou told Associated Press that the men took apart a pair of aluminium crutches and used the pieces to attack people as they tried to break into the cockpit. She added that police were still testing materials they had been carrying, thought to be explosives.

The Guardian reports that microblog accounts from people who say they had friends on the flight said passengers helped to restrain the men and tie them up.

One microblogger told AP: "They had a long crutch that can be broken into pieces, and the pieces had sharp ends."

The plane, which was carrying 92 passengers and nine crew members, safely returned to Hotan 22 minutes after take-off.

The men, aged between 20 and 36, were reported to be Uighurs, the local Muslim ethnic minority.

According to the Associated Press, Xinjiang is home to a large population of minority Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs), but is ruled by China's ethnic majority Hans. There have been clashes between authorities and Uighurs resentful of government controls over their religion and culture.

According to the BBC, Uighur allegations of discrimination have been behind anti-Han Chinese and separatist sentiment in the region since the 1990s.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the German-based World Uyghur Congress which campaigns for Uighurs' rights, said Friday that it wasn't a hijacking attempt but an in-flight brawl over a seat dispute.

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