China Says It Foiled Terror Plot

BEIJING -- China said Thursday that it had uncovered a criminal ring planning to kidnap athletes and others at the Beijing Olympic Games.

The "violent terrorist gang" was based in the restive western Xinjiang region and headed by a man identified as Abdulrahman Tuersun, Public Security Ministry spokesman Wu Heping said at a news conference. He also gave more details on a second alleged ring that had been uncovered in January.

Wu said 35 people, including Tuersun and another man, Kuerban Mutalifu, were arrested between March 26 and April 6 for plotting to kidnap athletes, foreign journalists and other visitors to the August Olympics.

"They wanted to make a global impact to sabotage the Beijing Olympics," Wu said.

"We face a real terrorist threat," he added.

The men's names appear to indicate they are members of Xinjiang's Muslim Turkic Uighur ethnic group. Uighur radicals have been staging a low-intensity struggle for an independent state.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror hijackings, China has tried to portray the simmering insurgency in Xinjiang as linked to terrorist organizations in Central Asia and the Middle East. Evidence has often been scanty, and some terror experts and overseas law enforcement officials have questioned whether such ties exist.

Wu said the gang hatched the Olympic plot in November.