Urumqi (AsiaNews) - Chinese police have responded to an alleged terrorist attack on government buildings, killing and injuring dozens of people - ethnic Uyghur and Han - in the remote western province of Xinjiang. The operation took place yesterday morning, but state media only reported the news in the late evening. According to Xinhua, a group of assailants "armed with knives and axes" attacked the government office and the police station Elixku, County Shache. At the same time another group attack the inhabitants of Huangdi town near Elixku.
Local police said they had "shot
and killed dozens of assailants" in what it called a premeditated and organized
"terrorist attack". During the violence 6 cars were torched and 25 more
nearly destroyed. The authorities have not provided data on the number of
victims or injured, and have accused the Uyghur minority - Turkic and Muslim - for
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress based in Germany, says that more than 20 Uyghurs were killed by the police, while 10 others were seriously injured. 13 police officers were killed or wounded, while "about 67 people" were arrested after the attack.
The Xinjiang region is one of the most turbulent in all of China. Its Uyghur Muslim minority, who number about nine million, have long sought independence from China. The central government, for its part, has brought in hundreds of thousands of settlers to make Han Chinese the dominant ethnic group. At the same time, it has severely curtailed Muslim religious worship as well as the teaching of the local language and culture.
Since 2009 Chinese police and the military have held the region under a special regime, which Beijing imposed following clashes that left nearly 200 people dead. As a result of various episodes of violence, hundreds of long prison sentences were imposed and dozens of death penalties were carried out. Chinese authorities blame Muslim extremists for the wave of violence. Uyghur exiles claim instead that Beijing is "exaggerating" the threat of Islamic terrorism to justify repression against indigenous Uyghurs.
For Beijing, Uyghurs are responsible for the recent spate of violent attacks, including the 1 March 2014 attack at the Kunming railway station by knives-wielding men that left 29 people dead and more than 150 wounded, and the 28 October 2013 incident when a SUV plunged into a crowd in Tiananmen Square, then burst into flames, killing three people. Finally, May 1, 2014 an attack on the train station in Urumqi - the Capital of Xinjiang - shortly after the departure from the President Xi Jinping caused 3 dead and 79 wounded.