A six-strong gang reportedly attempted to take over a Tianjin Airlines flight bound for Urumqi last Friday, minutes after it took off from Hetian in southwest Xinjiang.

A regional government spokesman said that a pair of aluminum crutches were broken into pieces by the suspected terrorists and used to attack passengers.

However, passengers and crew tussled with the hijackers and were able to tie them up with belts, allowing the pilot to land the plane safely.

Two of the hijackers then died after being taken to hospital, it is claimed.

Xinjiang is home to a large population of minority Uighurs, but is ruled by China’s ethnic majority Hans.

There have been several clashes between the Hans authorities and Uighurs in recent years, including riots in 2009 that killed almost 200 people.

German-based rights group World Uyghur Congress, which campaigns for Uighurs’ rights, has countered that the incident was not a hijacking attempt, but rather an in-flight brawl over a seating dispute.

Image: Getty

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