China sentences three to death for Tiananmen Square attack

This file photo taken on Oct 28, 2013 shows police cars blocking off the roads leading into Tiananmen Square as smoke rises into the air after a vehicle loaded with petrol crashed in front of Tiananmen Gate in Beijing in an attack which left two peop
This file photo taken on Oct 28, 2013 shows police cars blocking off the roads leading into Tiananmen Square as smoke rises into the air after a vehicle loaded with petrol crashed in front of Tiananmen Gate in Beijing in an attack which left two people dead, besides the three in the car, and 40 injured. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China sentenced three people to death on Monday for a deadly attack at Beijing's Tiananmen Square last October, state television reported, an incident blamed by the government on Islamist militants.

Another attacker was given a life sentence, and four others received jail terms ranging from five to 20 years.

Five people were killed and 40 hurt when a car ploughed into a crowd at the northern edge of Tiananmen Square and burst into flames. Those killed included two bystanders and three people in the car.

Two of those sentenced, named in a state media report, appeared to have ethnic Uighur names. The western province of Xinjiang is the traditional home of the Turkic-speaking Uighurs, and China has blamed previous knife and bomb attacks on separatists who seek to establish an independent state there called East Turkestan.

China has been on edge since a suicide bombing last month killed 39 people at a market in Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi.

Police in Xinjiang have arrested or tried dozens of suspects in recent weeks for spreading extremist propaganda, possessing banned weapons and other crimes.

Knife-wielding attackers in western China wounded four people in a crowded chess hall in the city of Hotan on Sunday, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said in a separate report on Monday. Two of the attackers died from serious injuries and a third was arrested.

The motive for Sunday's attack was not immediately clear.

Rights activists and exile groups have charged that the government's own repressive policies in Xinjiang have sowed the seeds of unrest, a claim Beijing denies.

In March, 29 people were stabbed to death at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming.