The top Communist Party official overseeing Uygur-populated Xinjiang has called on the armed forces deployed in the troubled region to be prepared to safeguard social stability and to counter potential unrest. The autonomous region's party secretary, Wang Lequan , told a conference bringing together all senior armed police officers in the region that the Xinjiang contingent of the People's Armed Police had been upgraded to a full army-level unit, meaning it would enjoy more power and resources, China News Service reported yesterday. Mr Wang warned that at a time of complex global and domestic problems, which would probably translate into an atmosphere of general uncertainty for Xinjiang, the mission of ensuring stability in the region had become more onerous as the 'three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism' appeared to be preparing to launch another round of attacks. Such a threat would seem more likely with several sensitive dates due this year, including the 50th anniversary of the Lhasa uprising in March, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown in June and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in October. To meet the challenges, Mr Wang, who is known as a hardliner, said the region's armed police had to be better equipped and prepared than ever before. In August, just days before the opening of the Beijing Olympics, a squad of armed border police in Kashgar was ambushed by two ethnic Uygurs. At least 16 officers were killed in the assault and another 16 were injured. In the following months, a series of attacks initiated by what authorities called 'Uygur terrorists' erupted in the region, including in Kuqa and Shule county, killing dozens of officers and civilians. After reviewing those incidents, Mr Wang reportedly said that last year was an extraordinary one, in which the armed police's Xinjiang contingent had achieved remarkable success. Earlier, Rozi Ismail, president of the Higher People's Court of Xinjiang, said the regional court had processed 268 cases in relation to the violent events of last year. During the regional people's congress on Friday, Mr Ismail pledged to crack down on separatist forces with an iron fist.