Beijing, Jun 29 - Uighur militants today made a brazen but futile bid to hijack a passenger plane using a broken crutch in China's restive Xinjiang region, creating a mid-air drama which climaxed with alert passengers and crew overpowering the six hijackers.
The incident that left 10 people injured occurred in the restive Xinjiang province of western China, where Uighur Muslim militants are fighting against Chinese rule.
The Tianjin Airlines' Flight GS 7554 flight carrying 100 people took off from Hotan airport and was headed to the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, 1400 km away, but just 10 minutes into air six hijackers tried to take over the aircraft, state run Xinhua news agency quoted regional public security bureau as saying.
The hijackers tried to break into the cockpit using a broken crutch as a weapon but were overpowered by passengers and crew, a statement from Hou Hanmin, a spokeswoman for the Xinjiang regional government was quoted as saying by BBC.
At least ten passengers and crew were injured. While two flight policemen were seriously injured, a head attendant and seven passengers were slightly injured in the fight with hijackers, police said.
The plane returned to the Hotan airport and the suspects were detained.
Police said they were Uighur separatists.
Xinjiang, the home of Uygurs, a Turkik speaking Muslim community has experienced ethnic clashes as Uighurs have resented the increasing settlement of Han Chinese majority in their region.
Almost half of Xinjiang's residents are Uighurs, a Muslim minority group with cultural and ethnic links to Central Asia.
Uighurs allege discrimination and marginalisation and the province witnesses a number of ethnic clashes and violent incidents since 1990s.
In 2009, riots erupted in Xinjiang in which nearly 200 people died after tensions flared between the Uighur and Han Chinese communities, and were followed by a major crackdown.
Since then, there have been sporadic attacks and clashes.
The regional government once alleged that some of militants of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which fomented a separatist movement in Xinjiang underwent training in camps in Pakistan.
Airports in Xinjiang as well as flights to and from the province have the highest security checks in China as the province has experienced several such hijacking attempts in the past. PTI