An emergency landing following an attempted terrorist attack on board a plane en route to Beijing from the northwestern city of Lanzhou, in
China’ troubled Uighur region, has led to the grounding of three pilots of Uighur descents.

In the said incident, according to state media, a 19-year-old Uighur woman from Kuqa slipped through security checks at Urumqi, the capital of Xinjing province, and locked herself in the aircraft toilet with several cans of petrol.

“They were all told they would not be allowed to fly, at least after the Olympics,” a Chinese aviation official was quoted.

The official added, cabin staff belonging to the Uighur ethnic minority, which China claims is out to cause trouble during the Games, has also been removed from working on flights operating around Xinjiang. “However, they are allowed to work on airlines flying to other destinations in China. There are only three pilots of Uighur decent in the Chinese aviation fleet.”

The minority Uighur from China’s Xinjiang province is eager to form their own separate state of East Turkistan.

China’s authorities have blamed Uighur separatist fighters for the death of 16 policemen who were killed on August 4 along the ancient Silk Road town of Kashgar, by driving a truck into them and attacking them with home-made bombs and knives.

This was followed by an attack six days later, by a group of 15 Uighurs armed with knives, stabbing three guards to death at one of the many road checkpoints to maintain security, and an attack on a government building in Kuga, on the edge of the Taklamakan desert, according to security officials.

Official figures from the General Administration of Civil Aviation in 2006 show China has a total of 11,000 pilots, mostly recruited from its air force, working in 800 airlines. By 2010 China’s fleet is expected to grow to 1,250 to feed its burgeoning economy.