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China punishes Xinjiang military boss after Beijing attack

China's Communist Party says it has sacked the military chief of Xinjiang from the region's governing council. The dismissal follows an attack in Beijing officially blamed on Islamist militants from Xinjiang.

Chinese state media reported Sunday that Peng Yong had been sacked as a member of Xinjiang's Communist Party Standing Committee.

The state-run Xinjiang Daily newspaper said Peng would be replaced by Liu Lei, an army veteran with long experience in the region.

The newspaper gave no reason for Peng's dismissal. However, it comes after a car crash on Monday in Beijing's Tiananmen Square that authorities have blamed on members of the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority in the troubled northwest region.

The party frequently removes top officials after such incidents.

Deadly crash

Three people in the car died, along with two tourists, when the vehicle drove into bystanders outside the front entrance of the Forbidden City on the north of the square.

Police say the three occupants of the car were Uighurs belonging to the same family: a husband accompanied by his mother and his wife.

Security in the capital and in Xinjiang has been stepped up in the wake of the crash.

Embarrassing incident

The incident was a major embarrassment for the enormous and expensive state security apparatus, especially as it occurred in the heart of the capital.

Beijing party chief Guo Jinlong has urged police and security forces to "learn the lessons" from the attack, according to an article published on Sunday by the Beijing Daily, the Party's official mouthpiece in the capital.

"Draconian prevention of violent terrorist attacks is part of the mission in maintaining order," he said.

Xinjiang has seen sporadic unrest, often arising from ethnic frictions between Uighurs and ethnic majority Han Chinese.

Authorities usually blame the troubles on "terrorists" and "separatists." Uighur organizations however say Beijing uses such accusations as a pretext for imposing harsh religious and security restrictions.

tj/slk (AFP, Reuters)