Anti-terror units arrive on Beijing streets
Chinese authorities ratchet up security after a series of bomb and knife attacks on civilians
AUTHORITIES in Beijing have deployed 150 new anti-terror teams to shore up security after a string of attacks by extremists from the northwest region of Xinjiang.
Last month two suicide bombers attacked passengers with knives before detonating explosives at a train station in Urumqi, in the northwest of the country. A similar attack in March left 33 people dead and 140 injured in the southwestern city of Kunming.
The attacks are believed to have been carried out by members of the Uigher minority, who say they are persecuted by the Chinese government.
“The government has long denied oppressing Uighurs or any other ethnic group and has blamed terrorist acts on separatist Muslims who want to make Xinjiang an independent state,” the Washington Post reports.
The new anti-terror squads are intended to counter criticism of the slow response to previous attacks.
Each unit will cover an area less than two miles across and will be able to reach any incident in the city within three minutes, according to sources quoted by the South China Morning Post.
However, questions are being asked about the level of protection the new force can offer in a city of 20 million people.
“The units will cover less than 500km of streets in total, only a fraction of Beijing’s over 21,000km long road network,” the paper says. “The units will therefore be placed at ‘critical areas’, although the authorities would not give details on where they were or what qualified as a critical area.”
A statement released by the Beijing police says that each unit will consist of nine armed men and four assistants. Almost 2,000 officers will work shifts to maintain round-the-clock cover.