Beijing adds armed police patrols after attacks

AP News
Posted: May 12, 2014 4:25 AM
Beijing adds armed police patrols after attacks

BEIJING (AP) — China's capital boosted armed police patrols Monday following a spate of attacks the government blames on terrorists seeking independence for the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Beijing's police force said on its microblog that 150 additional vehicles and nearly 2,000 police and auxiliaries were being assigned to guard key intersections around the city of more than 20 million people.

The additional personnel were drawn from the paramilitary People's Armed Police, members of whom could be seen standing in groups of three around Tiananmen Square in the heart of the city.

Wearing helmets and carrying automatic rifles, they kept a close eye on crowds circulating around some of the country's most iconic sites such as Tiananmen Gate and the Great Hall of the People where foreign dignitaries are welcomed.

The additional security was taken to increase the public's sense of security, intimidate would-be assailants, and shorten response times to violent incidents, the police statement said.

"This armed patrol brigade will speedily and effectively take down all forms of terrorist activity," it said.

The statement said the new security teams would be a permanent presence in the capital, adding to a slew of increased security measures that include checkpoints and security screening for subway riders and anyone seeking to enter public spaces such as Tiananmen Square.

China has increased security countrywide in the wake of two recent attacks at train stations that killed 30 people and at least two attackers. The assaults were blamed on extremists from among Xinjiang's native Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group.

The violence has also included an unprecedented attack last year on Tiananmen Gate in the heart of Beijing that killed three Uighur assailants and two tourists.

Although Uighur (pronounced WEE'-gur) separatists have been waging a low-level insurgency for decades, recent attacks have been bolder and bloodier, targeting civilians and underscoring shortfalls in Beijing's ability to respond.

Uighur activists say the violence is being fueled by restrictive and discriminatory policies imposed by China's majority Han ethnic group.

China has blamed several incidents on overseas-based separatist radicals in the East Turkistan Islamic Organization, although it has presented little evidence.