In late October 2013, in the heart of Beijing at the main entrance to the Forbidden City, a man driving an SUV accompanied by his wife and mother plowed through crowds on a wide sidewalk before crashing in front of Tiananmen Gate, across the street from Tiananmen Square. Loaded with gasoline, the SUV burst into flames just short of the iconic portrait of Mao Tse-tung , killing the three passengers inside. Two tourists— one from the Philippines and one from southern China—were killed and 40 others—mostly pedestrians on the sidewalk—were injured. Police identified the three attackers and five alleged co-conspirators as Uyghurs. Otherwise Beijing released little information about the Beijing attack — the first in the Chinese capital in years. Most of the outside world learned about from cell phone videos taken by tourists and bystanders at the site of the attack. [Source: Associated Press, November 4, 2013]

The October 28 incident—as the attack is sometimes called—took place at the Jinshui Bridge, just 400 meters from the Ministry of Public Security’s headquarters and only 400 meters to the Xinhuamen—the “Gate of New China” the formal entrance to Zhongnanhai leadership compound. It caused the Minister of Public Security, Guo Shengkun, to be criticized by Xi Jinping. The SUV appeared to have crashed into a column, bursting in flames. Photographs taken immediately after showed plumes of white and brown smoke rising from the scene. It was unclear whether the car carried explosives or whether it caught fire on its own. "Police have identified Monday's incident at Tiananmen Square as a violent terrorist attack which was carefully planned, organized and premeditated," police said, adding the three people in the vehicle died after they set the gasoline on fire.

Philip Wen and Sanghee Liu wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, “The symbolic heart of power in China, Tiananmen Square, is among the most tightly controlled areas in Beijing. But on October 28, shortly after noon, the constant police presence and surveillance was undone by a rudimentary plot. A four-wheel-drive with number plates registered in Xinjiang veered onto the footpath alongside Chang'an Avenue, the capital's main east-to-west thoroughfare. Ploughing into pedestrians at speed, it travelled more than 400 meters before crashing to a halt and bursting into flames, killing all three occupants under the serene gaze of the square's portrait of Chairman Mao. Two tourists were killed and 40 injured in the most prominent act of protest at the square since the student demonstrations of June 4, 1989.[Source: Philip Wen, Sanghee Liu, Sydney Morning Herald, March 1, 2014 /*]

“The square was evacuated, armed police swarmed for days and internet censors moved to delete photos and discussion of the incident on social media. After more than a day of silence, the occupants of the car were identified by police as Usmen Hasan, his wife, Gulkiz Gini, and his mother, Kuwanhan Reyim. The names were identifiably were those of five other people arrested in connection with the attack. Police said they had retrieved petrol canisters, knives, metal bars and a black banner bearing "religious extremist messages" in the burnt-out car, and officials declared the incident a "violent terrorist act that was carefully planned and organised" by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an obscure group whose ability to strike in China has been questioned by analysts.” /*\

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: Few “details were forthcoming from the official Chinese news organs and photographs were scrubbed clean from the Internet. Nelson Bunyi, a Filipino tourist who survived the attack with a fractured leg, said he had been on the sidewalk with his wife and two daughters when they spotted the vehicle heading toward them. "A lot of people were running and jumping, but it was too late for me," said Bunyi, who was flat on his back in the hospital, oxygen tubes in his nose. "It was a white car and it was coming very, very fast. I fell to the ground. I remember there was smoke, not much else." The interview was interrupted when police, who were stationed in the hallway outside the hospital room, said the patient could not be questioned without written permission...Most of the injured appeared to have been tourists or police. A nurse at Beijing’s Tongren Hospital said that besides the Filipino family, there was a Japanese tourist and a 5-year-old Chinese boy. [Source:Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2013]

Poor Security and the Uyghur Tiananmen Square

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “It could hardly have been a more audacious attack or one that was aimed more directly at the bull's-eye that is the spiritual heart of China. At all times, Tiananmen Square is blanketed with paramilitary and police, uniformed and plain-clothed, mingling in the crowds. Cameras record every motion. Separating the street from the sidewalk are 5-foot-high white steel barricades—designed to prevent the type of attack that took place Monday. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2013]

“However, the white sport utility vehicle appears to have entered at one of the few openings in the barricades, some 500 yards to the east of the square at the intersection of Nanchizi, a street running perpendicular to the main Chang’an Street. The driver then headed along the sidewalk toward the enormous Mao portrait, which hangs over the vermillion-walled "Gate of Heavenly Peace" (or Tiananmen Gate) that leads into the Forbidden City, erstwhile home of China’s emperors.

"The police were unprepared," wrote one micro blogger, who gave his name as Ma Min, and who claimed to have information from eyewitnesses. Another, writing under the name Chen Renda, complained, "We have yet to hear the story behind the story. What was the real identity of the people inside the jeep?... Were there weapons found? Were there any pamphlets?" Best known as the site of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, Tiananmen Square is a frequent magnet for protesters and self-immolators. But most plots are foiled far from the square—such as a 2009 incident in which three people set themselves on fire in a car at the Wangfujing pedestrian mall, reportedly over personal grievances with the government.

Jihadists Behind the Tiananmen Attack

Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “On a rocky hilltop close to the city of Urumqi in China’s troubled Xinjiang region, five men appear on a video wearing black bandanas decorated with Arabic writing. A black flag used by jihadist groups across the world flutters behind them as they press their hands together in a circle and pledge their allegiance to holy war. In another video, the bearded leader of those men is in his kitchen, where he first spits on and then burns small flags belonging to the United States, Britain and several Muslim nations — before stomping, with a bare foot, on a Chinese flag placed on the countertop. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, September 17, 2014]

“The home videos look like an amateurish attempt to copy those produced by al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants, but there is nothing comical about what happened later. The bearded man, identified by Chinese authorities as Usmen Hasan, drove an SUV flying a black flag into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square last October. The vehicle plowed through pedestrians and rammed into tourist barriers in front of the Forbidden City, then exploded into flames, killing its three occupants and three other people, and injuring 39. Hasan exemplified China’s great fear — that a long-running nationalist insurgency in Xin―jiang was morphing into a terrorist movement inspired by a foreign brand of radical Islam and that domestic Uyghurs were taking their cue from fellow Uyghur extremists schooled in the madrassas of Pakistan and on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

Responsibility for the Uyghur Tiananmen Attack

Initially no one claimed responsibility for the attack. The government blamed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant Islamic Uyghur group seeking independence for the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. A few days after the Tiananmen Square attack, China’s top security official Meng Jianzhu said that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) were “behind-the-scenes supporters” of the attack. ETIM is a Central-Asia-based a militant Islamic separatist group that seeks an independent state in Xinjiang. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called the group “the most immediate and realistic security threat in China”. It and other organisations “have long been engaged in central, east and west Asia, and have colluded with other international terrorist organisations”, she said, without elaborating or confirming any ETIM tie to the attack. [Source: AFP, November 2, 2013]

About a month after Tiananmen Square attack, an Uyghur Islamist group—The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP)—claimed responsibility for the attack and and warned of future attacks in the Chinese capital, according to an eight-minute audio clip obtained by a US-based internet monitoring organisation. "O Chinese unbelievers, know that you have been fooling East Turkistan for the last sixty years, but now they have awakened," TIP leader Abdullah Mansour said in the clip, which was posted online this weekend by the Search for International Terrorist Entities Institute (SITE), a Bethesda, Maryland-based website which monitors jihadist forums. [Source: Jonathan Kaiman, The Guardian, November 25, 2013 +++]

Jonathan Kaiman wrote in The Guardian, TIP “is the first group to claim responsibility for the attack. Mansour warned of future attacks by Uyghur fighters, including one targeting the Great Hall of the People, a granite edifice flanking Tiananmen Square where the ruling Communist party holds many of its highest-level meetings. "The people have learned who is the real enemy and they returned to their religion," he said. "They learned the lesson." +++

“Chinese authorities have blamed the Tiananmen Square attack on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). A foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said ETIM was the same as the TIP, and said the government would "continue the assault" on the group. "This lays bare the terrorist essence of this organisation and it also allows those people who recently suspected the nature of the incident to clearly see the truth," Qin said. +++

Skepticism Responsibility for the Uyghur Tiananmen Attack

“But many Xinjiang experts responded with scepticism. They say that the attack was probably motivated by China's hardline regional policies, which place severe restrictions on religious practice. Some doubt that ETIM is organised enough to carry out a sophisticated terrorist attack. Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, said that ETIM has reformed as the TIP in recent years; in 2012, its leader was killed by a CIA drone strike in Pakistan. The TIP has claimed responsibility for bus bombings in the Chinese cities Kunming and Shanghai, and threatened attacks on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. "The problem is that their credibility is dodgy at best," Bequelin said. "It's not clear whether they are a real outfit that is actively planning things, or just a bunch of people who are sort of agitating." The TIP's statement may allow the authorities to "point to the international community and say yes, we have a serious jihadist problem in Xinjiang", said Michael Clarke, a Xinjiang expert at Griffith University in Australia. They could use it "as an attempt to justify China's hard line" in the region.

Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, told Reuters the attack tragic but was equivocal on whether Uyghurs had carried it out. Kadeer warned against accepting at face value China's account of the incident."Chinese claims simply cannot be accepted as facts without an independent and international investigation of what took place in Beijing on Monday," Kadeer said. Asked whether she believed Uyghurs were responsible, Kadeer said: "Maybe and maybe not. It is difficult to tell at the moment, given the strict control of information by the Chinese government on this tragic incident." "If the Uyghurs did it, I believe they did it out of desperation because there is no channel for the Uyghur people to seek redress for any kind of injustice they had suffered under Chinese rule," she added. [Source: Paul Eckert, Reuters, October 30, 2013]

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, also warned against believing China's side of the story. "Beijing has always made these kind of accusations, but they refuse to make public the reasoning behind them. They will not make the story behind the accusations transparent," he told Reuters. [Source: Megha Rajagopalan and Michael Martina, Reuters, October 30, 2013]

Impact of the Uyghur Tiananmen Attack

The Tiananmen attack brought Uyghur-related violence much closer to home for attacks had generally been limited to Xinjiang itself. Rachel Lu wrote in Tea Leaf Nation: “If Xinjiang’s troubles seemed remote to residents of Beijing, the Oct. 28 attack brought them much closer to home. “This is the first time that I’ve ever felt so close to a terrorist attack,” remarked one user of Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter. Another tweeted, “My God, they can do this in front of Tiananmen? I’m very worried all of the sudden, how do they prevent this type of attacks in the future? Vehicle inspections?” [Source: Rachel Lu, Tea Leaf Nation, October 30, 2013 -] Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “The Chinese government appeared embarrassed by the apparent lapse in security at the heart of the city. There was no mention of the incident on the main 7 p.m. evening news, which led with a report on the 11th meeting of the All China Women’s Federation. A report on the incident ran on the late news. Beijing police closed off subway stations near the square after the incident and blocked vehicles and journalists. Using high-pressure water hoses, workers scrubbed the sidewalk clean and there was no trace of fire or explosion. But people knew what happened from the sketchy reports and word of mouth and appeared to be surprised, and a little shaken. "I can’t believe this is happening in the center of Beijing," an elderly man in a beret murmured to his wife. Senior members of the Chinese Communist Party are due to convene next month inside the Great Hall of the People, which is on the west side of the square, for a plenum to chart the nation’s economic future. Mao’s mausoleum lies to the south and Zhongnanhai, the compound of the top leadership, just behind the vermillion walls to the west. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2013]

The incident also led to harsher crackdowns and more resentment by Han Chinese directed at Uyghurs. “After a terrorist attack in China’s political center, there is no way” that the government will relax its grip on the region, one Weibo user commented. Conciliation has failed, he wrote, and “keeping up the high pressure is the only way to go” — even if, he continued, a “vicious cycle” of crackdown and backlash is inevitable. -

Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, told Reuters she feared the Tiananmen Square attack would join a long list of incidents that China uses "to justify its heavy-handed repression" in her native region, which she said was not alone in chafing under tight government control. "We see the desperation not only in East Turkestan but in Tibet and other parts of China as well," she said. "This is an overall problem in China, not specific to Uyghurs," she said, noting some 150 self-immolations by Tibetans and numerous violent incidents by Chinese protesting land seizures and corruption. "The root cause of the problem in East Turkestan, as in Tibet, is the colonial rule of the Chinese government and implementation of policies of cultural genocide - such as the systematic attacks on our language, culture, identity, values and religious beliefs," she said. [Source: Paul Eckert, Reuters, October 30, 2013]

Raxit said he was worried the incident would provide authorities with an excuse "to further repress Uyghurs". "If an attack is committed by a Han Chinese, it's not terrorism, but if a Uyghur commits it, it is," he said, referring to the majority community. "Beijing makes these accusations in service of an ulterior motive." [Source: Megha Rajagopalan and Michael Martina, Reuters, October 30, 2013]

Catching the Uyghur Tiananmen Square Attack Leaders

Shortly after the Tiananmen attack, Xinhua said only that the causes of the incident were "under investigation." According to the Los Angeles Times: A purported police notice advised Beijing hotel owners to look out for a 25-year-old and a 42-year-old man from the towns of Pichan and Lukchun, who have been involved in deadly tit-for-tat violence since the summer. The notice, which was published on the Internet site, referred to an unspecified incident in Beijing, and said that the men had at least one light-colored SUV and several license plates.” [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2013]

Later Beijing police said they had detained five suspects had helped plan and execute the attack. The police statement said they were caught 10 hours after the attack was carried out. It said they had been on the run and were tracked down with the help of police in Xinjiang and elsewhere. It didn't say where they were captured, but said police had found jihadi flags and long knives inside their temporary lodgings."The initial understanding of the police is that the Oct. 28 incident is a case of a violent terrorist attack that was carefully planned, organized and plotted," the statement said. Chinese authorities rarely provide direct evidence to back up terrorism claims, and critics say ordinary crimes or cases of civil unrest are often labeled as organized acts of terror. [Source: Christopher Bodeen and Isolda Morillo, Associated Press, October 30, 2013]

Reuters reported: “Five people connected with the incident were caught just 10 hours after the attack, with help from the Xinjiang government, the police added, all of whom also have names that suggest they are Uyghur.Police said they had seized Islamist militant flags and knives from where they were staying. "As a common enemy of mankind, terrorism has no future, and is doomed to failure," state television said in a commentary on its microblog. "We firmly believe that the Communist Party and government have the ability and the power to resolutely beat back and defeat all illegal terrorist activities."[Source: Megha Rajagopalan and Michael Martina, Reuters, October 30, 2013]

“Police have identified one of the caught suspects as being from Lukqun, where 35 people died in June, 2013 in what China also termed a terrorist attack. Reuters reporters in Xinjiang were turned back by police at a roadblock outside Lukqun town, and sent back to the nearby city of Turpan. "We have some police matters we are handling. For security reasons, you are not allowed in. I imagine it will be at least another month or two before this area is open," a police officer at the checkpoint said. In a small village near the checkpoint, a young Uyghur man who declined to give his name said people were afraid. "In the past few days, the police have been everywhere. At night, the sirens were all around. We are afraid to speak. If you speak, you will be taken away or shot," the man said, making a pistol shape with his hand.

“Many experts, rights groups and exiles say China exaggerates the militant threat to justify its harsh rule, and that there is no cohesive separatist or extremist movement. "The footage and photos that have been made available suggest a sense of randomness about the attack even though officials have said it was premeditated," said Michael Clarke, a professor at Australia's Griffith University who has studied Xinjiang. "It's perhaps not as sophisticated as it's made out to be."

Crackdown on Uyghurs After the Tiananmen Square Attack

Two days after the Tiananmen attack,Christopher Bodeen and Isolda Morillo of Associated Press wrote: “In a dusty outdoor curio market in China's capital, traders from the minority Uyghur community gathered to swap stories about the omnipresent harassment they say they suffer at the hands of the police. That scrutiny has only intensified after the deadly vehicle attack at Tiananmen Square. Since the attack, police "come to search us every day. We don't know why. Our IDs are checked every day, and we don't know what is happening," said Ali Rozi, 28, a Uyghur trader at the sprawling Panijayuan market. "We have trouble every day, but we haven't done anything," said Rozi, who is from Kashgar, the capital of Xinjiang province where most Uyghurs live. [Source: Christopher Bodeen and Isolda Morillo, Associated Press, October 30, 2013]

An attack in one of the eastern population centers is "something that the Chinese authorities have been worried about for a long time," said University of Michigan expert Philip Potter. "Once this threshold has been crossed, it is a difficult thing to constrain," Potter said, predicting tighter surveillance and scrutiny of Uyghurs in eastern cities. Rozi Ura Imu, a 48-year-old trader in jade and other precious stones from the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, condemned the attack, but said it didn't justify the harsher treatment by authorities. "I am also upset. They crashed a car, and we end up being harassed by police every day now, saying that we Xinjiang people are like that," Rozi said, standing at the gate of the Panijayuan market, which has thousands of stalls featuring crafts from regions throughout China: rows of statues and furniture, bins of beads and trinkets, cases of books and scrolls.

China Executes Uyghur Tiananmen Square Attack Leaders

In August 2014, China executed eight people for "terrorist attacks", including three described as "masterminding" the suicide car crash in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October 2013. Xinhua said that the eight were involved in several cases connected to Xinjiang. Three of the condemned, named by Xinhua as Huseyin Guxur, Yusup Wherniyas and Yusup Ehmet, were "deprived of political rights for life" when they were sentenced to death in June 2014. "They masterminded the terrorist attack" at Tiananmen Square, Xinhua said. [Source: AFP, August 24, 2014 +/]

Xinhua said five others were executed, including Rozi Eziz, who was convicted of an attack on police in Aksu in 2013. Abdusalam Elim was executed on charges of "organizing and leading a terrorist organization", Memet Tohtiyusup had "watched audio-visual materials on religious extremism" and "killed an innocent civilian" in 2013, and Abdumomin Imin was described as a "terrorist ringleader" who led Bilal Berdi in attacks on police in 2011 and 2013. Xinhua, which cited the Xinjiang region publicity department in its report, did not say when the executions were carried out.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress exile group, in an email blasted the legal process surrounding the executions, calling it a "typical (case) of justice serving politics". The sentences underscore the tough approach Beijing is taking to increasingly brazen and violent incidents. The executions and sentences are part of a crackdown that comes after Beijing vowed a year-long campaign against terrorism in the wake of the Urumqi market attack. In June, 13 people were executed for Xinjiang linked terrorist attacks.

In June 2014, A court in Urumqi sentenced the three people to death after convicting them of planning the attack at Tiananmen Square and jailed five others They were convicted of organizing a terrorist attack and harming public security. Bloomberg reported: “The attackers were linked to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement because the movement’s flags were found in the jeep, according to earlier state media reports. The court ruled they had collaborated with the three assailants — the driver, his wife and mother — who crashed into a crowd, killing themselves and two tourists. [Source: Neil Western, Bloomberg, June 16, 2014]

Guangzhou Knife Attack In May 2014

In May 2014, six people were wounded in a knife attack at a train station in Guangzhou. Emily Rauhala wrote in Time, “For the third time in months, and the second time this week, there has been a knifing at a Chinese railway station. At approximately 11:30 a.m., local time, one or more men stabbed at passersby outside a train station in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. Six people were injured, one critically, according to state-media reports. (Local press initially said there were four attackers, but Chinese police now say the suspect acted alone; eyewitness accounts vary.) [Source: Emily Rauhala, Time, May 6, 2014 ^=^]

“Photographs from the scene show what is becoming alarmingly common: blood on the pavement and bodies on the ground.” A few days before, a bomb and knife attack at a railway station Urumqi, left three dead and dozens injured. “It is not yet clear if the incident in Guangzhou is related to what happened in Urumqi or Kunming. Chinese authorities blamed both those attacks on separatists from the country’s predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority. President Xi Jinping, who wrapped up a high-profile Xinjiang tour just before the Urumqi attack, announced plans to arm Chinese police officers with guns. In the wake of the recent spate of violence, he ordered the army to help local government deliver a “crushing blow” to terrorists. ^=^

“Details from Guangzhou are still scarce, but early eyewitness accounts suggest the attacker or attackers wore white and brandished long knives. A woman named Liu Yuying told China News Service, a Chinese news agency, that she was exiting the station when she saw two men with “watermelon knives.” The Guangzhou Journal reported that they carried blades a half-meter (or about 20 in.) long. Though the motive has yet to be determined, Chinese netizens were quick to connect the violence in Guangzhou to earlier incidents and condemn authorities for not doing enough to prevent mass attacks. “The counterterrorist effort is not enough,” one person wrote. “The innocent people are paying the price.” ^=^

Smaller Terrorist Attacks in Xinjiang in 2013 and 2014

In mid December 2013, 16 people were killed when assailants attacked police officers in Shufu county of Kashgar prefecture in western Xinjiang. Tianshan Net reported that knife-wielding assailants hurled explosive devices at police and said two police officers died in the attack while 14 attackers were shot and killed. Another two assailants were arrested. Authorities said that “thugs” armed with explosive devices and knives attacked police attempting to detain them, though exile group World Uyghur Congress described it as a “massacre” of a family preparing for a forthcoming wedding. [Source: Associated Press, December 16, 2013, Yomiuri Shimbun, December 30, 2013]

In late December 2013, eight “attackers” armed with knives and explosives were killed during an assault on a police station in Shache county in southwest Xinjiang. One of the attackers was held in the clash according to Tianshan Net. The website made no mention of any police casualties and said officials were conducting an investigation. The area, around 200 kilometers southeast of Kashgar, is known as Yarkand in the Uyghur language.[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, December 30, 2013]

In January 2014, three people were killed and two were wounded in three explosions in Xinhe in the Aksu prefecture of Xinjiang. Two explosions occurred "in a hairdressers and a market", which resulted in one fatality, before two people died when a car "self-exploded" as police were surrounding it, the Tianshan web portal, a local Government mouthpiece in Xinjiang, said The explosions occurred about 6:40pm (1040 GMT), the report said. [Source: Agence France-Presse January 24, 2014]

In March 2014, an attacker was shot dead after fatally assaulting a policeman in Urumqi according to to Chinese government sources. AFP reported: “The attacker, armed with unspecified "weapons", targeted the officer. The policeman was injured in the fight and died later, it said, while the assailant was shot dead by police reinforcements. Urumqi's Communist Party-controlled news portal reported that the attacker was from Aksu prefecture, in the far west of Xinjiang near the border with Kyrgyzstan. There were no other casualties, it added, citing the city's police authorities. The public security ministry identified the dead policeman, aged 29 and the father of a one-month-old boy, by his name in Chinese characters as "Wu Si Man Jiang". He had Uyghur features according to a picture attached to the weibo posting. US-funded Radio Free Asia also reported the incident and named the policeman as Osmanjan Ghoji, identifying the attacker as a Uyghur, Ilyar Rehmutulla.” [Source: AFP, March 19, 2014]

In September 2014, dozens of people were killed in Luntai county in Xinjiang when explosions killed six people. Riots followed the blasts and police shot dead 40 people, some of whom were trying to blow themselves up, state media said at the time. Associated Press reported: “Multiple explosions in a county in China's western region of Xinjiang have killed at least two people and injured many others. The explosions happened at about 5 p.m. Sunday in at least three places of Luntai county, according to a report on the Tianshan news portal. Luntai county is in central Xinjiang, 360 kilometers southwest of the capital, Urumqi. "Public security officers quickly handled the situation," it said, without giving details. See Violence in Xinjiang. [Source: Associated Press, September 21, 2014]

Three Han Chinese Officials Murdered in Xinjiang During President Xi's Trip

In May 2014, Radio Free Asia reported: “Three senior Han Chinese officials were brutally murdered and their bodies dumped in a pond in Xinjiang while Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Xinjiang region. The killing of the trio—two of whom had their throats slit and the third of whom had been stabbed 31 times—occurred on April 27, the first day of Xi’s four-day regional visit, which ended with a deadly blast at a railway station in Urumqi, the officials said. [Source: Radio Free Asia, May 14, 2014 /~]

“The three were among four officials on a fishing expedition in a lake in Kargilik county in Kashgar prefecture when they were killed, just one day before Xi visited the prefecture, police said. When one of the officials couldn’t find the other three while fishing in Kokkolyar Lake, he reported the matter to police, resulting in a massive search that led to the discovery of their bodies, said Enver Tursun, deputy chief of the police station in Janggilieski town, where the incident occurred. "Two of the men had their throats cut and were dumped into the lake, while the third one was stabbed in 31 places before he was also pushed into the lake,” Tursun told RFA’s Uyghur Service. “It indicates that the third man had resisted against the murder suspects.” /~\

“He said that the men, aged between 38 and 45, were senior county level officials—one was head of a bank and the two others were chiefs of the telecommunication department—all of whom were transferred to Xinjiang two years ago. The fourth official was a director of a state-owned company. All four were based in Poskam county, which neighbors Kargilik county. /~\

“For 15 days, the regional police department chief Chen Tingjiang and leaders of the prefectural police department of Kashgar have been on the case and, so far, over 150 people have been interrogated with some of them still in detention, but we still are unable to pinpoint the suspects,” Janggilieski police chief Kuresh Hesen told RFA. “We have now widened the search area,” he said. A Janggilieski Politics and Law Commission official said the bodies were handed over to the wives of the men the next day. A note posted on the Internet on May 3, and later deleted, claimed that the authorities had ordered the wives of the three Han officials to quickly bury their husbands. As the three men did not have any bad records, the families believed they may have been victims of a “terrorist attack,” according to the note, which could not be immediately authenticated with the authorities. /~\

“The note, circulated on the Baidu and Tianya online forums, also mentioned four other killings on the same day of the murder case in Kargilik county, including that of a 13-year old female middle school student who was allegedly stabbed by “a woman wearing a black veil.” None of them could be confirmed with the authorities. A teacher at the No. 2 Middle School in Poskam county, however, confirmed with RFA’s Cantonese Service that the student was from the school, though he refused to provide any personal details. /~\

“Police had identified three to five initial suspects from the more than 150 people rounded up for questioning over the murder case, but have refused to give their identity, although many assume they are Uyghurs. The Janggilieski Politics and Law Commission official said police believe the suspects were from Lengger village in the town, “which is 99 percent Uyghur.” /~\

“Xi visited a Kashgar police station on April 28, telling police officers that the prefecture is the “front line in anti-terrorist efforts and maintaining social stability.” "Grassroots police stations are 'fists and daggers,' so you must spare no efforts in serving the people and safeguarding public security," Xi was quoted saying by state media. Henryk Szadziewski, senior researcher at the Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project said the murder case in Kashgar ahead of Xi’s visit to the prefecture is a significant development. “It is a very alarming incident if the details are confirmed,” he told RFA’s Mandarin Service. “The timing is probably the reason why the information was suppressed,” he said, noting that Xi had conveyed a message of “stability” and “security” during his visit.” /~\

Uyghur Teenager Behind Killing of Pro-Beijing Imam

In July 2014, three suspected Islamist militants armed with knives and axes killed the imam of China's biggest mosque in Xinjiang, days after a knife-wielding gang attacked state buildings in the same region. Reuters reported: “All three attackers, who were named by the government, had ethnic Uyghur names and the imam, Juma Tayir, was a well-known pro-government Uyghur who led prayers at the Id Kah Mosque in the old Silk Road city of Kashgar. The men attacked Tayir after morning prayers, the Xinjiang government said on its official news website on Thursday. Two of the attackers were later shot dead by police while the third, Nurmemet Abidili, was arrested, it said. The three "were influenced by religious extremist thinking and plotted to raise their profile by 'doing something big'", the government said. [Source: Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard, Reuters, July 31, 2014]

“Tayir was a controversial figure among Uyghurs. In 2009, he backed the government after it quashed deadly riots in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi in which nearly 200 people were killed. Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, said Tayir was known locally for cooperating with the government and helping them to monitor religious activities of the Uyghurs. "Local Uyghurs suspected that he had a special relationship with China's Ministry of Public Security," he said.” [Ibid]

A few week later, Reuters reported: “Chinese police have concluded that an 18-year-old, who was influenced by religious extremism, was the mastermind behind the murder of Tayir. The state-run China Daily newspaper, citing police, said Aini Aishan, 18, was "the alleged mastermind behind the murder" of the imam. Aini Aishan had instructed Nurmemet Abidili on Islam, "showing him the terrorist videos and teaching him about religious extremism", the Xinjiang Daily reported. It cited interviews with Aini Aishan and Nurmemet Abidili.Aini Aishan believed the imam, Juma Tayir, had "twisted the meaning of the Koran and that killing someone so influential would create a large impact", the report said. "The goal is to kill Juma Tayir so you can go to heaven," it quoted Aini Aishan as telling two of the attackers. [Source: Reuters, August 25, 2014]

“Aini Aishan taught Nurmemet Abidili about jihad - an Islamic holy war - according to the Xinjiang Daily. "The first time I heard the word 'jihad, I was really excited, I wanted to conduct 'jihad' and do great things," the newspaper quoted Nurmemet Abidili as saying. Aini Aishan had come into "contact with a local religious extremist group in January 2013 and obtained violent terrorist videos as well as prohibited religious publications so he could preach to other people", the newspaper reported.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: 1) "Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China", edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K.Hall & Company, 1994); 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, ~; 3) Ethnic China *\; 4) \=/; 5), the Chinese government news site | New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated July 2015

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