China attacks leave 19 dead

2011-08-01 10:02
Beijing - Two incidents of mob violence in the restive north-west Chinese region of Xinjiang over the weekend left 19 people dead in what official media on Monday called "terrorist attacks".

A mob hacked six people to death and set fire to a restaurant on Sunday in central Kashgar, the Xinhua news agency said. Fifteen people, including three policemen, were injured.

Police shot dead four of the assailants at the scene and detained another four, one of whom later died in hospital. Four others managed to flee, police said.

In the same city late on Saturday, two knife-wielding assailants hijacked a truck, killed its driver and drove the vehicle into a crowd before jumping out and stabbing people, killing six and injuring 28.

A crowd then turned on the two, killing one and detaining the other.

"There were cries and blood everywhere," Xinhua quoted office worker Yang Hongmei as saying. "Terrified people flooded into our office to hide."

Government suppression

About an hour before the attack, two explosions occurred in the area. It was not clear if the explosions caused any casualties.

Ethnic tensions run high in Xinjiang and have increasingly turned violent. Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority, typically resent Chinese rule of Xinjiang.

The attackers involved in Saturday night's violence were Uighurs, state media reported. Xinhua reports referred to the assailants as "rioters" and "terrorists". The ethnicities of the assailants involved in Sunday afternoon's violence were not clear.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesperson for the Germany-based exile group World Uyghur Congress, said in an e-mail the Chinese government's suppression of Uighurs was the cause of the violence.

Citing local sources, he said that after Saturday's attack, at least 100 Uighurs were arrested and the city was put under lockdown.

"The clash was caused by Chinese oppression of Uighurs, Chinese migration to the region and the fact there is no way for Uighurs to peacefully protest," he wrote.

Uighur resentment

"China should immediately end its oppressive policies in Xinjiang, withdraw Chinese settlers, free Uighur political prisoners and allow Uighurs to peacefully demonstrate," he said.

Uighurs account for about 40% of Xinjiang's population of 20 million. Many resent what they see as cultural and religious repression by the central government and the increasing number of Han Chinese, the country's majority ethnic group, migrating to the region.

This month, more than 20 people were killed in a clash with police in Hotan, Xinjiang.

In July 2009 in the regional capital, Urumqi, Uighurs attacked Han Chinese and subsequently suffered revenge attacks. The violence left about 200 dead and 1 700 injured.

Some of the Xinjiang violence is connected to a long-running Muslim separatist movement, which is supported by some Uighurs, a people with historic and linguistic ties to the Turkic peoples of Central Asia.

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