Police have arrested more suspects in connection with a clash between authorities and assailants that left 21 dead in the western region of Xinjiang, Chinese state media reported yesterday.
Eight suspects already were in custody following the clash on Tuesday last week, which killed 15 police officers and local government officials, and six assailants. Authorities described the gang as terrorists.
The death toll was the highest for a single incident in months in Xinjiang, which sees recurrent outbreaks of violence pitting members of the Turkic Muslim Uighur group against the authorities and majority ethnic Han Chinese migrants.
China Central Television said yesterday that another group of suspects had been captured and interrogated, though it did not say how many. It also said explosives were seized. The report quoted the state anti-terrorist office and Chinese Vice Public Security Minister Meng Hongwei (孟宏偉).
Also yesterday, CCTV broadcast images of a memorial service for the 12 men and three women police officers and officials killed in the clash. It said Meng attended, along with more than 1,000 people from local party and government departments.
A leading Uighur activist has questioned the official account of the incident. Local sources said that police sparked it by shooting a Uighur youth during an illegal search of homes, according to Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the German-based World Uyghur Congress.
Authorities previously said 10 of those killed on the government side were Uighurs, three were Han and two were from the Mongolian ethnic group. It said two other Uighurs were hurt. The ethnicity of the assailants was not given.
Xinjiang, a sprawling region that borders Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, is home to millions of Uighurs, many of whom complain of tight restrictions on religious and cultural life by Beijing and say they have been marginalized by policies favoring Han migrants.
Beijing says it treats its minorities fairly and spends billions of dollars on improving living standards in minority areas.