BISHKEK, July 2 (Reuters) - Kyrgyz police have detained a suspect in the murder of a Chinese diplomat and said they were not sure whether the crime was political, an Interior Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.
The spokesman said police had detained 46 year-old Tursuntay Salimov after finding the gun used in the killing on him. They were still searching for his son, also suspected of involvement in the crime.
Wang Jianping, China's first secretary and consul in Kyrgyzstan, and his driver Omar Nurmurkhamed, a businessman living in Bishkek but originally from China's Xinjiang province which borders Kyrgyzstan, were shot dead when their car stopped at a traffic light in central Bishkek on Saturday.
Police have been investigating whether the killings were carried out by ethnic Uighurs fighting for an independent homeland in the northwestern Xinjiang region of China.
Kyrgyzstan recently convicted four Uighurs, including two Chinese nationals, for an attack on a Xinjiang government delegation visiting Bishkek in May 2000 in which a Chinese official was killed.
But Kyrgyz authorities were keeping an open mind on Tuesday, saying the motive could be political or business-related.
"All versions are being considered. First of all we are considering the possibility that it was linked to his diplomatic activities," an official at the Kyrgyz National Security Service told Reuters.
"I don't rule out terrorism for this act, given that the Xinjiang region is not far from us," said Adygany Erkebayev, the speaker of Kyrgyzstan's upper house of parliament. "It wouldn't be the first case."
There are some 48,000 Uighurs, whose Turkic language and culture have much in common with other Central Asian peoples such as Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, Turkmens and Uzbeks, in Kyrgyzstan. A Uighur political party, Shark Azatlyk Tashkelaty (Freedom for the East) is struggling for independence for what the party calls Eastern Turkestan from China's Xinjiang region.
Reuters, July 2, 2002