Urumqi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have killed 17 terror suspects from three families, including women and children, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.
“Yes, I received a notice from my superiors informing us that all of the terrorists have been killed and warning us to remain vigilant against a possible revenge attack,” said Exmet Abliz, police chief of Bay’s Qeyir Township, told RFA.
Police sources said that the 17 fugitives were killed when the military blew up the cave in which they were hiding. The fugitives were wanted in connection with the Sogan Colliery attack that killed 50 people.
On that occasion, Chinese authorities pinned the attack on ethnic Uighurs, Turkic-speaking Muslims concentrated in Xinjiang who seek cultural and religious autonomy from Beijing.
For nearly two months, police and the military sought the 17 suspects: the three men believed to have carried out the attack – Tursun Jume, 46, Musa Toxtiniyaz, 47, and Memet Eysa, 60, from Chokatal Meadow, in Bay’s Kanchi Township – and their family members.
Ekber, the director of the Terek Township middle school, which has been used as a base of operations for the manhunt, said teachers and staff finally returned to classes on Tuesday after nearly two months.
“I received a call from the chief of the Bay County Education Department, who told me that the war had ended with a great victory – that all the terrorists had been killed and that we could return to the middle school,” he said.
“Based on the warrant list,” said Ekber, “we found out that the 17 suspects included four women and three children, one of which – nine-year-old Munire [Memet, the adopted granddaughter of Memet Eysa] – was one of our second grade students.”
A local official who provided the names of the suspects to RFA in October said at the time that neither the women nor the children had been involved.
The police raid comes a few days after China, following the Paris attacks, stated that it was going to intensify its fight against Uighur terrorism, which it blames on the al Qaeda-linked East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
China has vowed to crack down on the "three evils" of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism. However, experts have questioned China’s action for its heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, blaming the escalation of violence on the central government unjust policies.