Six arrested in Xinjiang after 16 killed in violent clash

Bombs and firearms seized during raid following fight that killed 16 in Kashgar

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 10:52am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 4:10am

The Xinjiang regional government said six people had been arrested in connection with a bloody clash in Kashgar that left 16 people dead, including two police officers.

A number of explosive devices and home-made firearms were seized during the arrests, the government said. State media reported that police were attacked with bombs and machetes on Sunday as they were on their way to arrest a militant leader in Kashgar's Shufu county.

The militants were among 20 members of a group led by the suspected separatist, Xinhua said. The gang had been "promoting religious extremist ideas and making explosives and firearms for planned terrorist attacks'', the report said

The World Uygur Congress, an exile group based in Germany, said in a statement: "The World Uygur Congress strongly condemns the shooting and killing of 14 Uygur demonstrators, including those of two teenagers."

The group's president, Rebiya Kadeer, said the deaths of two teenagers showed the security forces chose to shoot first and ask questions later.

The central government has stepped up security in Xinjiang after a car ploughed into tourists at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October, killing the three people in the vehicle and two bystanders. Security authorities said the attack was carried out by Islamist separatists from Xinjiang.

Sporadic unrest often breaks out in Xinjiang, where more than 10 million Uygurs, a Turkic ethnic group, live.

Beijing has often blamed terror groups and militants for the increase in attacks recently. Reza Hasmath, a lecturer in Chinese politics at the University of Oxford, said that economic inequality and limits on religious freedom were the root cause of the violence.

"If this situation is not meaningfully addressed, you will continue to see flash ethnic violence in Xinjiang in the future," Hasmath said.

The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, ran an unusually conciliatory editorial calling for "ethnic healing" in restive Xinjiang, urging authorities to encourage travel to the region and to recruit more Uygur police.

"Winning the hearts of the public in sensitive areas has decisive significance," the paper said.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Agence France-Presse