XINJIANG ATTACKS

Villagers recount narrow escapes in Kashgar attack as CCTV airs scenes of aftermath

Clips emerge as foreign media provide alternative accounts of what happened on July 28

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 4:18pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 4:44pm

China’s state broadcaster aired scenes of the Kashgar terror attack’s immediate aftermath, as villagers recounted their narrow escapes from the armed mob that stormed their town and left scores dead.

China Central Television (CCTV) on Thursday evening showed clips of burning trucks and another of a man lifting a child from between two parked trucks as a body lies on the ground.

There were also masked men carrying weapons, from the site of the July 28 attack in Shache county, Kashgar, in Xinjiang province.

It also carried interviews with residents who condemned the attack as needlessly stoking tensions in the area and promoting misconceptions about Uygurs, the mainly Muslim ethnic group in Xinjiang.

This was the first video relating to the Kashgar attack shown in public. Knife-wielding militants stormed a police station and government offices, Xinhua reported.

The official death toll of 96 people included 37 civilians and 59 assailants, according to state news agency Xinhua, which released the figures on August 3.

The authorities identified the mastermind as Nuramat Sawut, a former imam who had links to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a separatist group operating across the border in Pakistan, according to Xinhua.

The village committee chief of Elixku township in Shache said his area was a target of the axe- and knife-wielding assailants, and that they managed to keep a stock of weapons from getting into the mob’s hands.

”We have 13 of these long spears and helmets kept by our committee. If they had stormed in and taken them away, the result would have been unimaginable,” the village chief said.

Meanwhile, another villager said he helped save more than 140 residents from being caught in the clash by warning them of impending trouble.

”I was making wheat bread and suddenly two cars stopped at the village entrance. Then in came several man who were wearing masks and holding sticks in their hands,” said the bearded villager, whose face was partially blurred in the CCTV interview.

”I stopped them there, and they asked me to follow them [and carry out the attack],” he said.

”I told them I didn’t have any weapons. ‘Why don’t you guys go ahead first while I get my two grandsons ready? Don’t scare me. I have heart disease’,” he recounted.

When the men left, he alerted the other villagers so they could flee.

The footage came as reports by overseas media – including Radio Free Asia and the Los Angeles Times, which have China bureaus – have emerged, questioning details in the state media’s account of the violence, including that the death toll was in the thousands and that the violence started from a justice march over a local Uygur dispute.

In the CCTV report, a local Kashgar farmer was quoted as saying: “This is not a religious issue. Neither is it an ethnic issue. They were indiscriminate when they launched the attack. Men, women old, or young were all victimised.”

”I’m infuriated, and I’m strongly against such behaviour,” he said.

Another farmer told the broadcaster the assailants gave Uygurs a bad reputation. “We should protect our villages well by not spreading and believing rumours because if not, our mentality would be shaken,” he said.

The Xinjiang Daily reported on Thursday that imam Sawut had been fired by the village mosque because of his disrespect for the elderly and poor knowledge of Islam.

”He is the shame of our village,” the newspaper quoted a cousin of Sawut as saying.

“After the terrorist attack, everybody has drawn a clear line. We all support the Communist Party and the government in their efforts to strike a hard line against terrorism and return a peaceful life to us,” he said.