Eight “attackers” armed with knives and explosives were killed yesterday during an assault on a police station in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, according to authorities who have blamed “terrorists” for a string of deadly incidents in the largely Muslim area.
One of the attackers was held in the clash in Shache County, according to information on the Xinjiang Government Web site.
The site made no mention of any police casualties and said officials were conducting an investigation.
The area, about 200km southeast of Kashgar, is known as Yarkand in the Uighur language.
Authorities say that “terrorists” have been responsible for a series of similar attacks this year in the region, but rights groups and outside academics say unrest is spawned by cultural oppression, intrusive security measures and a wave of immigration by China’s Han majority into the region, where Muslim Uighurs are the largest ethnic group.
Xinjiang, a region more than four times the size of Japan, is rich in oil and natural gas.
Government economic policies aimed at developing the region have raised Uighur living standards, but Han dominance of the economy has helped foster continued resentment from the minority group.
Yesterday’s violence came after 16 people — including two police officers — were killed in a clash near the Silk Road city of Kashgar earlier this month.
Authorities said that “thugs” armed with explosive devices and knives attacked police attempting to detain them, although exiled group World Uyghur Congress described it as a “massacre” of a family preparing for a forthcoming wedding.
In late October, police said three Xinjiang Uighurs drove a vehicle into crowds of tourists opposite Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing two people and injuring 40, before crashing outside the Forbidden City and setting their vehicle ablaze.
All three attackers died.
Beijing described the assault —the first blamed on Uighurs outside Xinjiang — as “terrorism” and said separatists backed by the militant East Turkestan Islamic Movement were responsible.
More than 190 “terrorist” attacks were logged in Xinjiang last year, rising “by a significant margin” from 2011, state media said last month.
Authorities have said that 139 people have been arrested in recent months for spreading “jihadist” ideology.
More than 75 percent of trials for the 1,000 people accused of “endangering state security” last year took place in Xinjiang, the US-based Dui Hua Foundation said last month, citing official figures.