A police officer was among at least 16 people killed in a clash between law enforcement and "terrorists" in Kashgar last week, state media revealed yesterday - eight days after the incident.
A report in the Kashgar Daily disclosed for the first time that tactical officer Yan Xiaofei, 32, was killed during a raid on August 20 in the restive area of southern Xinjiang. The report, which focused on a large memorial gathering for the fallen officer on Sunday, made no mention of other casualties.
The article came a day after police in Kashgar's Shule county said on their official microblog account that officers had shot dead 15 people while confronting a group of 28 suspected terrorists in Kargilik county. The post was later deleted without explanation.
Local community leaders estimated the number of suspects killed in the raid at 22, according to Radio Free Asia, which also reported that police suspected the group of making bombs.
Nearly 1,000 people, including governmental officials, teachers and police officers from the Kashgar area, attended the memorial for Yan, who was in the middle of the firefight, the Kashgar Daily reported.
Repeated calls to the Xinjiang government's press office went unanswered yesterday.
Several deadly clashes have occurred in Xinjiang this year amid continued tensions between ethnic Han and the large Uygur population in the western autonomous region.
A violent attack on April 15 in Maralbexi county, which is also under Kashgar, left 15 people dead, according to official data. Another 27 were killed in clashes in Shanshan county in Turpan prefecture in June.
In response, the central government has stepped up its crack down on what it says are terrorist and separatist elements in the region. A new national-level anti-terrorism task force held its first full meeting on Tuesday in Beijing, the Ministry of Public Security said on its website.
The ministry said the National Anti-terrorism Work Group, led by Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun , includes senior leaders from the Central Politics and Law Commission, the army and the armed police.
"All regions and departments should be fully aware of the serious situation currently and the … difficulty in fighting terrorism," Guo said.
The ministry has also formed a new national-level group to co-ordinate anti-terrorism activities.
Li Wei , director of the Centre for Counterterrorism Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the increased number of agencies in the group, indicated Beijing's determination to make its anti-terrorism efforts more professional.