'Eruption of violence' in China's Xinjiang

Four Uighur suspects killed by police in clashes following twin knife attacks that left 10 civilians dead.

    A demonstrator carries a cut-out model of Tursun Gul, a popular symbol of Uighur defiance [Reuters]

    A wave of violence has swept through China's ethnically-torn Xinjiang region, with knife-wielding attackers killing 10 people and police shooting dead four people suspected of involvement in the disorder.

    The unrest occurred in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar in two separate attacks, and local residents said Sunday the city centre was under lockdown, with security forces patrolling the streets.

    Xinjiang has seen several outbreaks of ethnic violence in recent years as the mainly Muslim Uighur minority has become increasingly angered by what it regards as oppression by the government and unwanted immigration of ethnic Han Chinese.

    In the first attack on Saturday evening, seven people were killed and 28 others hurt at a night market by two attackers with knives, one of whom was later killed in violence, the authorities said.

    On Sunday, three people were hacked to death by rioters, the official Xinhua news agency said. It had earlier reported that they had died in an explosion, but a follow-up report left it unclear whether there had been a blast or not.

    Police detained four other people, Xinhua said, while another four were on the run.

    Hijacking and massacre

    The first knife attack on Saturday night occurred in a food stall-lined street in Kashgar.

    "The attack happened in a rather dramatic fashion. The two attackers hijacked a truck, killed the driver, and drove the truck straight into the crowd," said Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan on Sunday from Beijing.

    "Then they jumped out and proceeded knifing random citizens, eventually being overtaken by the crowd themselves before they finally stopped."

    One of the attackers was later killed in the violence that followed and another was detained, according to a website operated by the regional government.

    "The ethnicity of the attackers is very important. We understand from a government spokesperson that they were indeed Uighurs," Chan said. 

    "And this is an area that has seen tension between the Han Chinese and the Uighurs - a Turkic Muslim group.

    "This is the second time this month that there has been an attack. Earlier this month a police station was burned down and 20 people died there.

    "All of this shows that the Chinese government faces great challenges in this region."

    State media quoted an official in Xinjiang as saying that the violence at the police station was a "terrorist" attack.

    Uighur activists, however, called it an outburst of anger by ordinary Uighurs and said security forces beat 14 people to death and shot dead six others during the prior incident.

    An overseas Uighur activist group told the AP news agency it feared the latest violence could prompt a fresh crackdown on the minority group, blamed for previous unrest in the region.

    The group also said most of Saturday's dead and injured were members of a security force that helps the police maintain order.

    "I am worried that authorities may detain more Uighurs by making use of this incident,'' Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uighur Congress, wrote to AP.

    In 2009, nearly 200 people in Xinjiang were killed in fighting between Uighurs and Han Chinese.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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