China yesterday blamed Muslim extremists trained in Pakistan for an attack that killed six civilians in one of the most troubled ethnic regions and police fatally shot five suspects.
Sunday’s attack raised the death toll from weekend violence in the Silk Road city of Kashgar in China’s far west to 18.
Kashgar is in Xinijang region, which has been tense since nearly 200 people were killed in fighting between Uighurs and Han Chinese in 2009 in Urumqi, the regional capital.
Kashgar’s city government said in a statement that an initial investigation showed members of the group behind Sunday’s attack had trained in making explosives and firearms in Pakistan camps belonging to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a banned militant organization advocating independence for Xinjiang.
The statement on the city government’s Web site did not offer any proof. China says the group is allied with al-Qaeda.
On Sunday, the “group of armed terrorists” stormed into a restaurant in Kashgar’s city center, killing the owner and a waiter and setting the restaurant on fire, the city government said.
The attackers then ran out of the restaurant and stabbed civilians indiscriminately, leaving another four people dead and 12 injured, it said.
Police opened fire and shot dead four suspects at the scene, while another suspect died later in a hospital, it said.
Xinjiang has been beset by ethnic conflict and a sometimes-violent separatist movement by Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group that sees Xinjiang as its homeland. Many Uighurs say they have been marginalized as more majority Han Chinese move into the region.
The statement called the latest violence a “premeditated terrorist attack.”
Xinhua news agency said that the local government issued arrest warrants yesterday for two local ethnic Uighurs, who allegedly fled the scene.
Sunday’s violence followed a day of clashes in the same Silk Road city that killed seven people and injured 22.
It was unclear who started the clashes. However, an overseas ethnic activist group said it feared the violence could prompt a new crackdown on minority Uighurs blamed for previous violence in the region.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the German-based World Uyghur Congress, which advocates a nonviolent approach, said that frustration was forcing Uighurs to take to the streets.
“Uighurs have no peaceful way to oppose the Chinese government, so some have taken to extreme measures. It is unthinkable, but it is the reality, and Beijing should take responsibility to deal with these issues,” he said from Sweden, where he is based.
China defends its treatment of minorities, saying all ethnic groups in the country are treated equally and that tens of billions of dollars in investment and aid have dramatically raised living standards.
Police patrolled Kashgar yesterday, but locals said it was a sight they were used to. There is usually a strong security presence in Xinjiang’s main cities.
“I took a bus to work as usual this morning and saw police armed with rods patrolling the streets,” said a woman at Hua-an International Travel Service, who only gave her surname, Zhao. “Seven or eight of them were in a group, but the police patrol the streets everyday. I didn’t see there was a big difference today.”
Another woman at Kashgar International Travel Service said she saw a report about the violence on TV.