China state media says Tiananmen attack cost $8,000

BEIJING - China's state broadcaster said a deadly attack in Tiananmen Square cost eight "terrorists" US$6500 (S$8,000) to execute, as a rights group reported dozens of arrests in connection with the incident.

The high-profile car crash on Monday killed two tourists and injured dozens at the popular site and symbolic heart of the Chinese state. The three people in the car - a man, his wife and his mother - all died in the crash, according to police.

China's state-run broadcaster CCTV said late Friday on a verified social media account that the attack had been planned since September and had a "budget" of 40,000 yuan (S$8,000).

The broadcaster said that the group of eight had possessed weapons - including "Tibetan knives and 400 litres of petrol" - and had stayed at a hotel in west Beijing before five of them returned to Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, leaving three others to carry out the attack using a Mercedes SUV.

The reports came as as a Uighur rights group said that more than 50 people had been arrested in the restive far western region of Xinjiang, where China's mostly Muslim Uighur minority is concentrated.

China's top security official has blamed separatist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for backing the attacks.

ETIM is known as a militant Islamic group that seeks an independent state in Xinjiang.

But CCTV did not mention the ETIM and said that eight people from Xinjiang "decided to set up a terrorist group" in September.

It did not specify the ethnicity of the group's members. Names of suspects released by police appear to mark them out as members of the Uighur minority, who say they suffer religious and cultural repression in China.

A spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, a Uighur exile group previously blamed for promoting violence by Beijing, said Saturday that 53 people had been arrested in Xinjiang in a police crackdown over the past two days.

"China has tightened its local repression since the Tiananmen incident...which could at any time lead to new conflicts between Uighurs and the Chinese government," Dilshat Rexit, a spokesman for the group, said in an emailed statement.

Chinese state-run media have reported periodic bouts of violence in Xinjiang which Beijing often describes as "terrorist attacks".

But Uighur organisations dismiss claims of terrorism and separatism as an excuse by Beijing to justify religious and security restrictions.