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China probes Xinjiang connection to Tiananmen car deaths

 A police officer stands guards in front of EM Observation Ward at a hospital treating people injured from the car crash in Tiananmen Square on Monday, in Beijing on Oct 29, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
 A police officer stands guards in front of EM Observation Ward at a hospital treating people injured from the car crash in Tiananmen Square on Monday, in Beijing on Oct 29, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Visitors take picture near the main entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing, on Oct 28, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Visitors take picture near the main entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing, on Oct 28, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
People walk along the sidewalk of Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of the main entrance of the Forbidden City at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 28, 2013.. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
People walk along the sidewalk of Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of the main entrance of the Forbidden City at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 28, 2013.. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
People walk along the sidewalk of Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of the main entrance of the Forbidden City at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 28, 2013.. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
People walk along the sidewalk of Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of the main entrance of the Forbidden City at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 28, 2013.. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A paramilitary policeman stands guard in front of the giant portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at the main entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing, on Oct 28, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
A paramilitary policeman stands guard in front of the giant portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at the main entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing, on Oct 28, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Vehicles travel along Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of a portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct  28, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Vehicles travel along Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of a portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct  28, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Plainclothes police hold barriers to shield the scene of a car crash in front of the iconic portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on Oct  28, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Plainclothes police hold barriers to shield the scene of a car crash in front of the iconic portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on Oct  28, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Police cordon off Chang'an avenue before Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 28, 2013 after a vehicle crashed in front of Tiananmen Gate. -- PHOTO: AFP
Police cordon off Chang'an avenue before Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 28, 2013 after a vehicle crashed in front of Tiananmen Gate. -- PHOTO: AFP
Workers stand before a police barrier outside Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on Oct 28, 2013 after a vehicle crashed near the area. -- PHOTO: AFP
Workers stand before a police barrier outside Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on Oct 28, 2013 after a vehicle crashed near the area. -- PHOTO: AFP
A fire truck stands parked before Tiananmen Gate and a portrait of Mao Zedong in Beijing on Oct 28, 2013 after a vehicle crashed near the area. 
A fire truck stands parked before Tiananmen Gate and a portrait of Mao Zedong in Beijing on Oct 28, 2013 after a vehicle crashed near the area. 
A policeman walks past in front of the giant portrait of the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong as other policemen clean up after a car accident at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct 28, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A policeman walks past in front of the giant portrait of the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong as other policemen clean up after a car accident at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct 28, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A police officer stands guards in front of EM Observation Ward at a hospital treating people injured from the car crash in Tiananmen Square on Monday, in Beijing Oct 29, 2013. Chinese police are looking for two suspects from its restive Xinjiang regi
A police officer stands guards in front of EM Observation Ward at a hospital treating people injured from the car crash in Tiananmen Square on Monday, in Beijing Oct 29, 2013. Chinese police are looking for two suspects from its restive Xinjiang region in connection with a "major incident", after five people were killed and dozens injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians and caught fire in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese police are looking for two suspects from its restive Xinjiang region in connection with a "major incident", after five people were killed and dozens injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians and caught fire in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Police in the capital are asking local hotels about suspicious guests who had checked in since Oct 1 and named two suspects it said were from Xinjiang in a notice issued on Monday night, four hotels told Reuters.

Judging by their names, the suspects appeared to be ethnic Uighurs, who are Turkic-speaking Muslims from Xinjiang, a province in the far west of China. Many Uighurs chafe at Chinese controls on their culture and religion.

"To prevent the suspected persons and vehicles from committing further crimes ... please notify law enforcement of any discovery of clues regarding these suspects and the vehicles," said the notice, which was widely circulated on Chinese microblogs.

The notice also listed four car licence plates from Xinjiang.

Beijing police, contacted by telephone, declined to comment.

Calls to the Xinjiang government went unanswered.

Police said on Monday that the car veered off the road at the north of the square, a major tourist attraction, crossed the barriers and caught fire almost directly in front of the main entrance of the Forbidden City, in front of a huge portrait of the founder of Communist China, Mao Zedong.

The three people in the car died, as well as two tourists.

China says it grants Uighurs wide-ranging freedoms and accuses extremists of separatism.

Many rights groups say China has long overplayed the threat posed to justify its tough controls in energy-rich Xinjiang, which lies strategically on the borders of Central Asia, India and Pakistan.