UNREST

Death toll from Xinjiang attacks rises to 35

People's Armed Police base, government offices and construction site were targeted by rioters

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 5:22am

Beijing yesterday raised the death toll from a series of attacks in Turpan , Xinjiang , on Wednesday from 27 to 35.

Twenty-four were killed by rioters, including two policemen, Xinhua said, adding that 16 of them were Uygurs. Police killed 11 rioters, while 21 police officers and civilians were injured.

Xinhua said an unspecified number of "mobsters" stormed the government office, the police station, the People's Armed Police base and a construction site in Lukqun township, Shanshan county, at around 5.50am on Wednesday. The authorities did not mention that a PAP base was also among the targets of attacks until yesterday.

It said four suspected rioters who were injured had been detained.

It was the first Chinese-language report on the incident released by Xinhua, which carried an English report roughly seven hours after the attacks.

Neither report mentioned the number of attackers, their ethnicity or what caused the attacks. But yesterday's report branded the incident a "violent terrorist attack".

A visitor to Turpan yesterday said he saw a roadblock with armed police officers and about 20 police vehicles.

A resident said a helicopter arrived on the scene along with many police and soldiers.

The Global Times, a tabloid affiliated with the People's Daily, yesterday quoted an unnamed regional official as saying that "earlier this year local police handled a case in which a store was attacked, which might have triggered that violence".

The attack came less than two weeks ahead of the fourth anniversary of ethnic clashes between Han Chinese and Uygurs in Urumqi , the regional capital, which left nearly 200 dead. Two months ago, 15 policemen or officials and six assailants were killed in another conflict in Bachu county, Kashgar , which involved attackers armed with knives and axes and the burning of a house.

A Lukqun resident told the South China Morning Post by phone that local officials had told people to stay at home and be vigilant soon after the violence on Wednesday, adding that dozens of militia soldiers from his village were patrolling the streets.

It was the deadliest unrest in the region since the media-savvy Zhang Chunxian became regional party secretary in April 2010, less than a year after the bloody clashes in Urumqi.

The mainland authorities said clashes in 2011 that killed 19 were organised by terrorists who trained in Pakistan and were part of a separatist movement seeking an independent state in Xinjiang. But they did not give further details about the motive and background of the assailants in Wednesday's attack.

Many Uygurs chafe at the central government's restrictions on their culture, language and religion. Beijing says it grants them wide-ranging freedoms

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse