BEIJING - The East Turkestan Islamic Movement was a "behind-the-scenes" supporter of this week's attack on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, China's top security official Meng Jianzhu said.
"Its behind-the-scenes supporters were the terrorist group the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) based in central and west Asia," Meng said when asked about the Tiananmen incident on a visit to Tashkent in Uzbekistan, video posted online Thursday showed.
A high-profile car crash on Monday killed two tourists and injured dozens at the popular tourist site and symbolic heart of the Chinese state, with the three people in the car - a man, his wife and his mother - all dying, police say.
They said the vehicle had a licence plate from Xinjiang, the far western region where China's mostly Muslim Uighur minority is concentrated, while the names released of the three people inside and five other arrested suspects sounded potentially Uighur.
ETIM is known as a militant Islamic separatist group that that seeks an independent state in Xinjiang.
The United States and the United Nations both classified ETIM as a terrorist organisation in 2002, during a period of increased US-Chinese cooperation following the 9/11 attacks.
Meng made his comments, a video of which was posted on the Chinese web portal Tencent, while visiting an anti-terrorism office of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional security group which links China, Russia and a number of central Asian countries.
But ETIM's strength and links to global terrorism are murky, and some experts say China exaggerates its threat to justify tough security measures in Xinjiang, which has seen sporadic ethnic clashes and anti-government sentiment.