BEIJING — A sport utility vehicle plowed through a crowd in front of Beijing’s Forbidden City before crashing and catching fire Monday, killing the three occupants and two tourists and injuring 38 visitors and security officers, police said.
Zhao Fuzhou, a security official at Beijing’s Xinjiang Dasha hotel, said Tuesday that police had circulated a notice to hotels searching for information about two suspects with Uighur names. Radicals among the Muslim Turkic Uighurs have been fighting a low-intensity insurgency against Chinese rule for years.
The dead included a female traveler from the Philippines, according to a statement on the Beijing police’s microblog and a Philippine official. Police said three other Filipinos and a Japanese man were among the injured but gave no details about their condition.
The accident closed one of the most politically sensitive and heavily guarded public spaces in the country.
Authorities quickly erected screens to hide the aftermath and cleaned up the scene, while images of the crash were taken down from the Internet.
The police notice said they were investigating and taking ‘‘effective measures to ensure the capital’s safety and stability.’’
The injured were among the crowds in front of Tiananmen Gate. The vehicle burst into flames after crashing into a guardrail for one of the ancient stone bridges leading to the gate, police said.
The statement said the driver veered inside a barrier separating a crowded sidewalk from busy Chang’an Avenue and then drove along the walkway to Tiananmen Gate, which is across the avenue from the sprawling Tiananmen Square.
Any incident in the area is considered sensitive because the square was the focus of a 1989 prodemocracy movement that was violently suppressed by the military.
The square is still heavily policed to guard against political protests, which occasionally happen on sensitive dates.