Clash with Uygurs leaves 21 dead in Xinjiang
Police fight for their lives in far western region after 'jihadists' are 'discovered making weapons'
Twenty-one people were killed in a violent clash involving axes, knives and the burning down of a house in Xinjiang on Tuesday, the regional government said yesterday.
Nine officials, six police and six ethnic Uygurs were killed in Tuesday's drama, said Hou Hanmin, spokeswoman for the Xinjiang government.
The authorities branded it a terrorist attack, saying the assailants were "jihadists" plotting violence in the region, even though there was no evidence suggesting they were linked to overseas terrorist groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
"The assailants were influenced by radical thoughts and planning to stage a jihad, or holy war," Hou said. "There is no evidence that they have overseas connections, but the assailants we captured said they had watched violent videos and were making weapons."
It was the first violent clash in the region since Xi Jinping became president in March. The region is home to about nine million Muslim Uygurs, with many complaining of religious and cultural repression. About 200 people died in riots in July 2009.
The latest incident began when two officials and a police officer went to check a Uygur home in Selibuya township, in Bachu county, Kashgar, after receiving a tip-off of "suspicious activity" there, Hou said.
They found "suspicious men with knives and axes" inside the home and reported the case to their supervisors, who sent more officials and police to the scene.
When they arrived they discovered that the two officials and the police officer had been killed by those inside. Only one officer was armed with a gun. A stand-off developed between police and those inside the house.
The battle ended when the gang torched the house, killing those inside. Hou did not indentify those in the house, but said police shot dead six Uygur assailants and captured eight more
Jiang Zhaoyong, a Beijing-based expert on ethnic issues, said home-grown terrorists would become a challenge for the new Chinese leadership.
August 2008: 17 armed police killed in attacks in Kashgar
July 2009: at least 197 killed in clash between thousands of ethnic Uygurs and Han Chinese in Urumqi
July 2011: 14 attackers killed during knife attack on police station in Hotan, Kashgar. One police officer died
July 2011: 14 killed in two terrorism attacks within 24 hours in Kashgar
February 2012: 15 killed in knife attack in Yechang county, Kashgar. Seven attackers shot dead and two arrested
Additional reporting by Reuters