Five suspects have been arrested for involvement in the Tiananmen Square attack that took place in Beijing Monday. The suspected assailants are reported to have ties with a Muslim minority ethnic group known as the Uighur.
Beijing police released a statement on a microblog Wednesday, saying the attack on Monday has been classified as a terrorist attack.
"The initial understanding of the police is that the Oct. 28 incident is a case of a violent terrorist attack that was carefully planned, organized and plotted," the statement said.
The individuals who drove the vehicle into the gate beneath Mao Zedong's portrait were identified as a family with an ethnic Uighur name, AP News reported. The man, his wife and his mother are reported to have died after they ignited gas inside the car. Two Filipino tourists also died in the attack, while another 38 bystanders, who were standing on the sidewalk as the car sped towards the Forbidden City gates that sit across from Tiananmen Square, were injured.
Knives, iron rods, gasoline and a religious flag found in another area of Beijing have been linked to the attackers.
The Uighurs are an ethnic group of Muslim Turks, native to the northwestern region of Xinjiang, Fox News reports. The Uighur extremists have been battling Chinese rule in Xinjiang for years on account of the harsh and oppressive rule of the Chinese. Many Uighurs say they face great discrimination by China's Han majority.
"Hotels won't take us and you can't rent if your ID shows a Xinjiang residence. People look at us with a lot of prejudice," Yusuf Mahmati, a Uighur fur trader, told AP.
The discrimination they face, along with the heavy regulations the Chinese government impose have kept Uighur communities extremely poor, leading them to feel disenfranchised. Protests and violent riots have resulted, but the Chinese have been successful at containing them to Xinjiang until now, the BBC reports.
An attack by the Uighur is "something that the Chinese authorities have been worried about for a long time," said Chinese expert, Philip Potter, as reported by AP News.