Chinese security forces in the far western region of Xinjiang killed 28 “terrorists” from a group that carried out a deadly attack at a coal mine in September.
The news carried on Friday by the government-run Xinjiang Daily was the first official mention of the September 18 attack at the Sogan colliery in Aksu, in which it said 16 people – including five police officers -were killed and another 18 wounded.
US-funded Radio Free Asia, which first reported the incident about two months ago, said at least 50 people had died.
Attackers fled into the mountains and authorities launched a manhunt with more than 10,000 people forming an “inescapable dragnet”, the Xinjiang Daily said.
“After 56 days of continuous fighting, Xinjiang destroyed a violent terrorist gang directly under the command of a foreign extremist group. Aside from one person who surrendered, 28 thugs were completely annihilated,” the newspaper reported.
|The plight of the Uighurs|
China’s government says it faces a serious threat from rebels and separatists in energy-rich Xinjiang, on the border of Central Asia, where hundreds have died in violence in recent years.
Xinjian is home to the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority people.
Rights groups say China has never presented convincing evidence of the existence of a cohesive armed group fighting the government.
Much of the unrest is caused by frustration at controls over the culture and religion of the Uighur people who live in Xinjiang, rights groups say, a charge Beijing denies.
The Xinjiang Daily said two people who appeared to have Uighur names were leaders of the unnamed foreign group.
Beginning in 2008, its members began watching extremist videos and communicated six times with radical elements outside of China’s borders, requesting tactical guidance, the paper said.
“Members of this foreign extremist group transmitted orders to the gang many times and demanded pledges of loyalty,” it said, without elaborating.
It was unclear why the government had not disclosed the incident earlier.