BEIJING, China, 17 November 2013
Nine assailants wielding axes and knives were shot dead during an attack on a police station in China’s restive East Turkistan (Ch: Xinjiang) region after they killed two police officers, state media reported Sunday.
The assault took place at about 5:30 pm (0930 GMT) on Saturday in the Serikbuya Township of Bachu County in Kashgar Prefecture, the official Xinhua news agency said, quoting local police.
Xinhua said the attackers were armed with knives and axes and that two other police officers were also injured, apart from the two auxilary officers who died. The agency gave no further details.
But Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, a Munich-based advocacy group, said the Uyghurs were protesting and that armed Chinese personnel were to blame for the violence.
He said in an email that besides the deaths, “several tens” of Uyghur demonstrators were arrested.
“I again call on international society to take emergency measures to stop the Chinese government from directly opening fire to suppress Uighur protesters and depriving them of using legal appeals and defending their rights,” he added.
The reported incident comes at a time of heightened tensions within East Turkistan following a fiery attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square last month that the government blamed on “terrorists” from the province backed by international Islamist militants.
Three East Turkistan Uyghurs drove their car loaded with petrol canisters into the gate of the Forbidden City on October 28. The attack left two dead besides the three people in the car, and 40 injured, according to Chinese police.
Beijing blamed Uighur separatists backed by the violent Islamist militant East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
But the authorities have not provided any evidence to support this assertion, which has raised doubts among experts, given the amateurish nature of the attack and the lack of an established Islamic extremist foothold in China.
Chinese state-run media have reported periodic bouts of violence in East Turkistan — a vast, resource-rich region that makes up much of China’s western flank — which Beijing often describes as “terrorist attacks”.
One such incident in June left 35 people dead, and 139 people have been arrested in recent months for spreading jihadist ideology.
The mainly Muslim Uyghurs, the largest ethnic group in East Turkistan, routinely complain of rights abuses against them by the authorities and dismiss claims of terrorism and separatism as an excuse by Beijing to justify religious and security restrictions.
Information in the area is difficult to independently verify.