UYGHUR-RELATED VIOLENCE IN XINJIANG IN THE 2010s
At least 400 people were killed in and outside Xinjiang in 2013 and 2014 in violence China blamed on radicals among Xinjiang's native Uyghur ethnic group. Homemade explosive devices have often featured in the violence, which has ranged from assaults on police stations to knife attacks on train travelers. [Source: Associated Press, January 12, 2015]
Xinjiang experienced 190 "violent terrorist" incidents in 2012 – a "substantial" increase over 2011, the state-controlled magazine Oriental Outlook reported. Because authorities severely restrict the flow of information in Xinjiang, the details of most cases remain murky. China arrested more than 1,000 people for “endangering state security”—a charge commonly brought against ethnic minorities—in 2012, up nearly 20 percent from the previous year, the US-based Dui Hua Foundation said last month citing official figures. [Source: Jonathan Kaiman, The Guardian, November 25, 2013 +++]
Deadly Shootout in Xinjiang in December 2011
In December 2011 the New York Times reported: “Police officers killed seven people they judged to be “kidnappers” in a remote mountainous area in the turbulent western frontier region of Xinjiang on Wednesday night, according to reports by state-run news organizations on Friday. One police officer was killed in the shootout. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, December 30, 2011]
A spokesman for the Xinjiang government told the state news agency Xinhua that a group of “violent terrorists” abducted two people in Pishan County in restive Hotan Prefecture, an area dominated by the ethnic Uighurs. In Pishan, the Han make up less than two percent of the population. Xinhua did not give details on the ethnicity of the people shot dead by the police.
Radio Free Asia, which has a Uighur-language service, reported that local residents said in interviews that all the people killed were Uighurs. A spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, an exile group based in Germany, told Radio Free Asia that he doubted the official version of events.”It’s not really credible to say the clashes were entirely caused by the actions of one party,” the spokesman, Dilxat Raxit said. “There are various accounts on the ground of the number of people who died.” Mr. Raxit said the authorities had sealed off all roads into Pishan County and had put security forces around the hospital were the dead and injured were taken.
An article printed in Global Times had a complicated narrative of the events, with elements rarely seen in China, even in the troubled Xinjiang region. The reporter, Yang Jinghao, cited a local official saying that a group of 15 men were trying to cross into Central Asia to receive “jihadist training” when they lost their way near Pishan. The men then seized two herdsmen who were looking for lost sheep and forced them to lead the way. The herdsmen escaped and contacted local police. In the shootout, the police killed seven of the so-called kidnappers, injured four and detained another four. Global Times said Hou Hanmin, a spokesman for the Xinjiang government, confirmed the story and said the men attacked by the police were all from ethnic minorities, though he declined to identify their ethnicities.
The newspaper also reported that police officers had looked into another kidnapping earlier this month in Pishan in which a Uighur man was abducted and murdered because he was found to be drinking alcohol. The Xinhua report said there were signs that religious extremism was on the rise in the area. It reported that storeowners and vendors in some rural areas of Pishan had said they were afraid to sell alcohol or cigarettes for fear of retaliation.
Ethnic Clash in Yecheng in March 2012 Leaves at Least 20 Dead
In March 2012, AP reported: “Officials have raised the death toll from a clash in China's heavily Muslim far west to 20 after it emerged police shot more assailants from the Uighur ethnic group than previously reported. The Xinjiang province's state-run website says nine assailants charged a crowd of civilians in the Xinjiang community of Yecheng, killing 13 and injuring many others. Police fatally shot seven attackers and detained two others. Earlier, state media reports put the overall toll at 12, describing it as a terrorist attack and saying 10 civilians and two assailants were killed. However, an overseas Uighur group says local Muslims were lashing out over government oppression and most victims were armed Chinese security personnel. [Source: AP, March 02, 2012]
Yencheng is 155 miles (250 kilometers) southeast of the city of Kashgar in southern Xinjiang. The Washington-based Uighur American Association said in a statement about the most recent attacks: "Harsh security measures and a heavy police presence in the region have created a climate of fear under which no one dares to speak the truth." The attacks came as the national government was gearing up for a once-a-year legislative session.
Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, “An outburst of violence in which about 20 people were reported killed has underscored tensions over Chinese rule in ethnic minority areas just days before an important national policy meeting in Beijing. The tensions have been growing during the past year in ethnic Uighur and Tibetan areas, and violence involving security forces and civilians is becoming a regular occurrence. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, February 29, 2012]
As with virtually all such events in remote parts of China, there were competing accounts of the violence, which took place in the town of Yecheng, known in Uighur as Kargilik... A report on a Web site run by the propaganda bureau of Xinjiang said Wednesday that 13 people were killed and many others injured when nine “terrorists” armed with knives stabbed people in a crowd on Happiness Road in the town of Yecheng. The police shot dead seven attackers and captured the other two, the report said. The attack began at 6 p.m.
Global Times, an officially approved newspaper, reported that attackers killed at least 10 people. The newspaper cited a statement it had obtained from the local government. Xinhua, the state news agency, reported that the police shot dead at least two attackers. A local policeman told AFP that a dozen attackers armed with axes attacked people in a market in Yecheng. The policeman said most of the victims were ethnic Han, though there were Uighur victims too, and that the police had shot five of the attackers, who were all Uighurs. Radio Free Asia, whose journalists talk regularly to Uighurs in the region, reported that a group of Uighurs killed three Han, and security officers then killed 12 Uighur youths.
A Communist Party official in Yecheng county told AP that all the rioters had been captured by police. Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the German-based World Uyghur Congress, told AP that local Uighurs told him seven armed Chinese security personnel were killed and three people were shot to death. He said two additional people were killed but did not provide any detail of those deaths. He said 10 people were injured, including two seriously hurt, and police have detained 84 people. Police have sealed off the area, he said. Dilxat said the violence in Yecheng erupted because local residents "could no longer bear China's systematic repression," and have been denied outlets for peaceful protest. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press, February 28, 2012]
Clash with Police in Kashgar Kills 21 in April 2013
In April 2013,clashes with police killed 21 people— 15 security forces and six “gangster—near Kashgar according to a propaganda bureau spokeswoman for the regional government of Xinjiang. Some reports said 25 people were killed. It was one of the deadliest incidents of violence in Xinjiang since nearly 200 people were killed in a July 2009
Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, “Six of those killed were gangsters, and eight more people in the gang were detained during the violence, according to accounts from the bureau on a regional news Web site, Tianshan. The other 15 killed were police officers and community watch workers or volunteers. They died after the large gang herded them at knifepoint into a house and set the building on fire, said the propaganda spokeswoman, who gave only her surname, Ms. Hou. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, April 24, 2013 ^^]
“Ms. Hou said all 14 of the assailants were of Uyghur ethnicity, most of them from a village administered by the township of Selibuya. She said they had been influenced by “religious extremism” and had been plotting a “jihad” since the end of last year, though there was no evidence they were working with foreign forces. As with many such events in Xinjiang, details of the fighting remained murky even a full day after the violence had transpired. Some elements of the official accounts were bizarre.” ^^
“The accounts called the assailants both “violent gangsters” and “suspected terrorists.” The violence took place in a village in Selibuya township under Bachu County, near Kashgar. The conflict began when a person called a local government office saying there was suspicious activity in a neighboring house. Three community watch workers went to check the house at around 1:30 p.m. and found people there with a large stockpile of knives measuring about 1.2 meters each, Ms. Hou said. The workers called the police, but were then captured by the gang. Several police officers arrived with another group of community watch workers; only one of the officers was carrying a gun, Ms. Hou said. Those 12 people were unaware that the gangsters had already killed the three community workers who had initially arrived at the house, and they were in turn cornered in the building. The attackers then set the house on fire. ^^
Later reports by propaganda officials and state media said the “gangsters” were really “terrorists” caught making explosives. “On the law enforcement side, six police officers and nine community watch workers died, Ms. Hou said. The Tianshan report said they were made up of 10 Uyghurs, three Han and two Mongolians. More security forces arrived at the scene and shot at the attackers, which resulted in the deaths of six of the gang members and the detention of another eight. None appeared to have fled.” ^^
Associated Press reported: “Official media accounts of the incident have differed.” A report, a week after the attack said “the clash began after government inspectors discovered bomb making materials. The inspectors were then grabbed by the attackers and forced into their hideout. Other attackers then arrived at the hideout and ambushed officers rushing to the scene before setting the building on fire, killing those held inside, the report said. Two assailants were shot to death in the fighting. Members of the group then began rampaging through a market in the area and attacked the local township government headquarters, leading to the shooting death of one attacker, the report said. Three others then attacked a police barracks and records offices and were all killed, it said. [Source: Associated Press, April 30, 2013]
Associated Press reported:“Two other Uyghurs were hurt. The ethnicity of the assailants wasn't given...A leading Uyghur activist has questioned the official account of the incident. Local sources said police sparked it by shooting a Uyghur youth during an illegal search of homes, according to Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the German-based World Uyghur Congress. [Source: Associated Press, April 29, 2013]
Arrests After April 2013 Clash with Police in Kashgar
A total of 19 people, all of them Uyghurs, were arrested in connection with the April 2013 clash between police and “gangsters” or “terrorists” that left 21 people dead. Eight suspects were taken into custody after the clash and state media and a local government said an 11 others were captured later. Associated Press reported: “A statement posted on a website run by the Xinjiang regional government's propaganda office on said the 19 suspects belonged to a terrorist group founded in September whose members regularly watched video clips advocating religious extremism and terrorism and attended illegal preaching ceremonies. Citing police, the statement said the group had planned to carry out a major attack in densely populated areas of Kashgar in the summer, and were seen making explosives on April 23 by local police and community workers, which led to the clash.[Source: Associated Press, April 29, 2013 ^]
“Meng Hongwei, the vice public security minister, was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying authorities had discovered a stash of homemade explosives, "lethal weapons," and flags promoting the independence of Xinjiang, referred to by Uyghur activists as East Turkistan. Xinhua said Meng vowed an "iron-handed crackdown against terrorism," saying police would use "every possible means to find and punish terrorists with no mercy." ^
“China Central Television broadcast images of a memorial service for the police and officials killed in the clash. It said Meng attended the service, along with more than 1,000 people from local party and government departments. Xinhua quoted Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri as saying the incident was "not about ethnic or religious issues, but a terrorist act to split the motherland and undermine national unity." "The terrorists carried out the attacks on victims, without sparing people of their own ethnic group," it quoted Bekri as saying at a ceremony to award posthumous honors to the dead officers and government workers.” ^
A day later Associated Press reported: The perpetrators of deadly violence in Kashgar “held secret Quran study sessions and possessed extremist religious literature, authorities said, accusations likely to be used by Beijing as justification for its strict rules on Islam in the vast northwestern territory. The group was led by Kasmu Memet, who began hosting the Quran study sessions in September, according to an account from the Xinjiang police that was posted to official websites. In March, they began manufacturing swords and conducting test explosions in preparation for carrying out a major attack this summer in densely populated areas of Kashgar, the account said...The report did not further identify the literature that was found, but said the group also possessed three flags inscribed with slogans promoting Islamic holy war. [Source: Associated Press, April 30, 2013]
Rioting in Turpan Area Kills 35 in June 2013
In June 2013, rioting and attacks by knife-wielding rioters on a police station, a government building and a construction site and a police response to this in the Turpan area of Xinjiang, left 35 people dead. Initially 27 people were reported dead but later the death toll was raised to 35. According to Xinhua rioters killed 24 people, including two police officers, and police shot 11 to death. Another 21 people were injured. Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur language service, citing local officials, reported that residents and an imam who helped with burial rites, said the death toll was at least 46 — including 35 security personnel. Xinhua said 16 of the dead were Uyghurs. RFA said of the security personnel that were slain, about half were Uyghurs. [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2013]
Chris Buckley wrote in the New York Times, “Protesters attacked a police station and government offices and the police fired on the crowd, state media said. It was the worst spasm of violence for years in Xinjiang.The confrontation broke out in the morning in Lukqun, a township in Turpan Prefecture, Xinhua, reported. “Knife-wielding mobs attacked the township’s police stations, the local government building and a construction site, stabbing at people and setting fire to police cars,” the report said. In the initial outburst of bloodshed, 17 people were killed, including nine police officers and security guards, and the police then fatally shot 10 rioters, it said. [Source: Chris Buckley. New York Times, June 26, 2013/-/]
“The Xinhua report gave no explanation of what triggered the confrontation; nor did it give the ethnic background or other details of the rioters. Uyghur people predominate in Turpan. A spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, an exiled group that advocates independence for the region, said the bloodshed had been stoked by a burst of detentions of Uyghurs in the area over recent months. “This clash did not happen by chance,” said the spokesman, Dilxat Raxit. “There have been sweeps and crackdowns in the area, leading to many Uyghur men disappearing, and the authorities have refused to give information about their whereabouts,” he said, citing recent phone conversations with residents. /-/
“Images circulated on Chinese Internet sites, which could not be verified, showed a body, apparently dead, splayed on the road, next to an abandoned and smashed police car. Other pictures showed burned out vehicles near a fire-gutted police station and a puddle apparently red with blood. Chinese news Web sites initially featured the Xinhua report on the latest violence. But later in the day, those reports disappeared, in what appeared to be a government effort to stifle alarm or volatile anger about the deaths. /-/
“The bloodshed struck a part of Xinjiang where relations between Uyghur and Han people have traditionally been relatively untroubled, said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher in Hong Kong for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy organization based in New York. “But the tensions been escalating in recent years,” said Mr. Bequelin, who takes a particular interest in Xinjiang. “The tensions are linked to the introduction of policies that call for much finer control and monitoring of local Uyghur affairs by officials. You have a lot of rehousing and relocation there, too.” /-/
“Lukqun Township, where the rioting erupted, is perched on the edge of desert and has about 30,000 residents, 90 percent of them Uyghur, according to a report in the Xinjiang Daily last year. Jiang Zhaoyong, a Chinese former journalist who has written extensively about Xinjiang, said police stations had been a target of ethnic violence there before, including in 2008. “This appears to be the act of a local group,” he said of the latest attack.” In 2013, “Mr. Jiang visited the area where the rioting broke out. “In the past, that area wasn’t one where tensions were especially acute.”
Two days after the attack, the Los Angeles Times reported: A report in the Global Times, a newspaper closely affiliated with the Communist Party, said more than 10 suspects had been arrested, most of whom were aged 18 or 19. The paper cited an unnamed Xinjiang official as saying that the attackers were mostly Uyghurs and mainly targeted Uyghur police officers. The Han victims were all migrant workers at a construction site in the town of Lukqun, the paper said. The Global Times said its reporter was unable to enter Lukqun because the city had been sealed off. The official also told the paper that authorities believed the attackers had been planning to launch an assault at a commodity fair in the city of Kashi. [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2013]
Members of a gang behind the violence had watched extremist videos beforehand, the China Daily said, citing police. In September 2013, a court sentenced three people to death and one person to 25 years in jail over the attack, saying they had taken part in a “terrorist organisation”, Xinhua reported. [Source: AFP, October 9, 2013]
Rioting in Hotan Area Kills 35 in June 2013
In June 2013, two days after the Turpan area attack, 35 people were killed in an attack against a police station in Xinjiang’s Shanshan county. Chris Buckley wrote in the New York Times, “The latest clash occurred in Hotan Prefecture, in the southern part of Xinjiang. A brief report issued by Tianshan Net, an official news Web site for Xinjiang, said that in Hanairike Township in Hotan, a crowd wielding weapons “assembled in a disturbance, and the public security authorities took emergency action and detained people taking part, rapidly quelling them.” The report said that “during the handling of the incident, no members of the public were killed or injured,” leaving it unclear whether any police officers or officials were hurt or even killed. [Source: Chris Buckley, New York Times, June 28, 2013 |~|]
“The clashes came just before the fourth anniversary of widespread bloodshed in Urumqi, when at least 197 people were killed on July 5, 2009, after the police broke up a protest by Uyghurs and the confrontation gave way to attacks by rioters on Han people. Yang Shu, a Chinese professor who studies unrest in Xinjiang, said the recent violence reflected Uyghur grievances about social inequalities and dislocation driven by economic modernization, the spreading influence of militant currents of Islam and the deterioration of ethnic relations since 2009. In July 2011, 18 people died when rioters in Hotan stormed a police station. “The July 5 incident is a major factor,” Professor Yang, the director of the Institute for Central Asian Studies at Lanzhou University in northwest China, said. “It was a watershed. Afterward, Uyghur-Han relations have clearly deteriorated. We can’t avoid this problem.” |~|
“The Chinese government has often placed blame for past violence in Xinjiang on militant groups seeking independence, especially the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. But advocates of Uyghur self-determination say the violence is often a spontaneous local response to mass detentions and other harsh policing methods. “These are not like the Chinese government often accuses or just states — terrorists,” said Mr. Seytoff, the president of the Uyghur American Association. “The Chinese repressive policies have driven some ordinary Uyghurs into the ultimate desperation.”“ |~|
China's state-run media blamed around 100 people it branded as "terrorists" for sparking 'riots' in Hotan. The the state-run Global Times said the group "(attacked) a number of people with weapons after gathering at local religious venues." Radio Free Asia quoted a resident as saying that local Uyghurs were angry police had "stormed into the mosque and surrounded it" during prayers a week earlier because the local imam had deviated from an officially sanctioned sermon. It also quoted a source as saying police opened fire on Uyghurs as they left a local mosque. "Young Uyghurs on motorcycles were leaving the mosque, they were shouting religious slogans...The police were frightened and started shooting at them. At least two died and one was injured," the report said. China's President Xi Jinping said following the attacks that "(the incidents) must be handled quickly to guarantee the general stability of the society," Tianshan Web reported today. [Source: AFP, June 29 2013 +++]
According to AFP: “It was not possible to verify details of Wednesday's clash independently as reporters were barred from entering the town detained and later followed by local police. The Uyghur American Association, run by exiled members of the minority, said a "blackout of news" on attacks in the region cast doubt on Chinese government claims in a statement released today. "The state then uses its propaganda apparatus to label the incident 'terrorism' without presenting any evidence that can be independently proved," the group said. The recent unrest occurred shortly before the anniversary of the 2009 riots, and ahead of celebrations for the Muslim Ramadan festival which Uyghurs have said are repressed by local authorities. +++
Violence in Late 2013
In August 2013, Radio Free Asia reported that local officials said 12 more Uyghurs had been killed in a raid in western Xinjiang in July, month, bringing the total reported dead in crackdowns that month to 34. Beijing attributed the July attacks to what it calls "terrorist" and "separatist" groups. Uyghurs say the assailants are upset with social repression and a lack of opportunities to partake in the Han Chinese-dominated local economy. [Source: Massoud Hayoun, Al Jazeera America, September 18, 2013 \^/]
In November 2013, Eleven people were killed and two injured in Bachu county in Xinjiang, when a group of people armed with axes and knifes attacked a police station. "Nine mobs holding knives and axes attacked a police station at Bachu county near Turpan, killing two auxiliary policemen and injuring another two policemen," according to a report on xinhuanet.com." The nine mobs were gunned down on the site and local social orders restored to normal," said the report, which identified one of the attackers with an apparent Uyghur name. [Source: Reuters, November 17, 2013]
Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the main Uyghur exile group, the World Uyghur Congress, said the last violence occurred after the police used electric rods to beat Uyghurs, who went to protest at the police station, and then shot a protester dead. "China's so-called judicial reform is leading to local armed staff using excessive violence to repress Uyghur protesters," he said. He did not say what the protest was about.
In December 2013, 16 people, including two police officers, were killed in a riot in a village near the city of Kashgar, and another eight were killed later that month in Yarkland county. In the Kashgar attack, authorities said "thugs" armed with explosive devices and knives attacked police as they attempted to detain them.
Xinjiang Violence in 2014
Clashes and Explosions Kill 12 in Aksu in January 2014
In January 2014, six people were shot dead by police and six were killed in explosions in Xinjiang's Aksu prefecture. The BBC reported: “Clashes that killed 12 people in China's western region of Xinjiang were caused by "terrorists", Chinese state media report, citing police. State-run news agency Xinhua said explosions took place at a hair salon and market on Friday afternoon. After the blast, police shot six suspects, while another six died when they set off explosives, the news agency said, adding that five other people had been arrested. [Source: BBC, January 27, 2014]
“Xinhua news agency described the incident as "organised, premeditated terrorist attacks". But the report gave no reason why the hair salon and the market were targeted. Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for exiled Uyghur group the World Uyghur Congress, suggested that the protests were sparked by anger at the salon because it was a front for a brothel. "The forced repression and provocation is the real reason for the confrontation," he said in a statement.
Ben Blanchard of Reuters wrote: “Police came under attack by a group throwing explosive devices in Xinhe county, the official news agency Xinhua said. Five suspects were captured and one policeman was slightly wounded, Xinhua said. The Global Times, owned by Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, said two explosions had occurred in a beauty salon and a grocery market in Xinhe on Friday evening. "China has refused to disclose the real reason for the protests by the Uyghurs," Raxit said in an emailed statement. "The Uyghurs simply cannot endure the current repressive policies pursued by China." Eleven people believed to be members of a militant group of Uyghurs were killed in Kyrgyzstan after illegally crossing into the former Soviet republic from China, Kyrgyz border guards said on Friday. [Source: Ben Blanchard, Reuters, January 26, 2014]
Police Kill 8 People in Aksu in February 2014
In February 2014, Chinese security forces fatally shot eight people who attacked police with machetes and drove cars that carried gas cylinders they detonated as bombs Aksu Prefecture, which border Kyrgyzstan in Xinjiang. Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “Three other assailants died as they exploded the bombs in the attack in the county of Wushi in Aksu prefecture, injuring four people, according to the Tianshan news portal, which is run by the regional branch of the Communist Party. The reports did not identify the ethnicity of the assailant. The official Xinhua News Agency said the assailants rode motorbikes and drove cars that carried liquefied natural gas cylinders they intended to use as suicide bombs. They attacked a team of police who had gathered at the gate of a park for a routine patrol in Wushi, Xinhua said, calling the assailants "terrorists." [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, February 14, 2014 /=/]
“An exiled Uyghur activist accused Beijing of labeling the attackers terrorists in order to justify the authorities' use of armed force against them. "The cause of the Uyghur struggle is China's armed forces' use of violent raids and provocations," said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the German-based World Uyghur Congress. "No one can continue to bear China's provocations and its systematic police of repression." /=/
“Police fatally shot eight of the machete-wielding assailants and caught one of them, the Tianshan report said. Two bystanders and two police officers were injured in the attack, while five police patrol vehicles were damaged, the report said. Photos posted by Tianshan showed a military police jeep and a troop transporter that were heavily damaged, their windows shattered and fronts burned out. Aksu was also the site of an attack last month in which assailants threw explosives at police in Xinhe county. Six people died in the explosions and six others were shot dead by police.” /=/
Violence in Xinjiang in July 2014
Reporting from Shache County in southern Xinjiang, Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “On July 18, hundreds of people gathered outside a government building in the town of Alaqagha, angry about the arrest of two dozen girls and women who had refused to remove their headscarves, according to a report on Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA). Protesters threw stones, bottles and bricks at the building; the police opened fire, killing at least two people, and wounding several more. [Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, September 19, 2014]
“Then, on July 28, the last day of Ramadan, a protest in Elishku was met with an even more violent response, RFA reported. Hundreds of Uyghurs attacked a police station with knives, axes and sticks; again, the police opened fire, mowing down scores of people. China's official Xinhua news agency said police killed 59 Uyghur “terrorists" in the incident, although other reports suggest the death toll could have been significantly higher. According to the Chinese government's version, the angry crowd subsequently went on a rampage in nearby towns and villages, killing 37 civilians — mostly ethnic Han Chinese. See Below.
Ninety-Six Dead in Riots and Attacks in Xinjiang in July 2014
In late July 2014, violence in two villages 25 miles north of Yarkand in southwest Xinjiang , killed at least 96 people and injured 94. Julie Makinen wrote in the Los Angeles Times: The details remain sketchy at best. Officials say police shot 59 attackers after an armed group stormed government offices and killed 37 people. Foreign Uyghur activist groups counter that police opened fire on locals protesting a crackdown on Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, and they suggest the death toll was much higher than 96. [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2014]
Associated Press reported: Chinese state media released a detailed casualty count, with 37 people and 59 attackers killed in the deadliest unrest in months. The state-controlled Xinhua News Agency, which had previously said only dozens were killed, reported that attackers armed with knives and axes stormed a police station and government offices in Elixku township and then moved onto nearby Huangdi township. The agency said 215 attackers arrested, and that the dead civilians included 35 Han ethnic majority members and two Uyghurs. The earlier official account was immediately disputed by the U.S.-based Uyghur American Association, which represents the prevalent ethnic group in Xinjiang. It quoted local sources as saying police opened fire on people protesting Chinese security forces' crackdown on Muslims during Ramadan, killing more than 20. Neither version could be independently verified. [Source: Associated Press, August 3, 2014]
Xinhua's report said the attackers had set up roadblocks, slashed at some passengers and forced others to join the attack. Xinhua named the mastermind behind the violence as Nuramat Sawut, who the agency said is connected to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Violence has erupted repeatedly.” Two days later, “police shot dead nine suspects and captured another in Hotan prefecture, two days after Jume Tahir, the imam of China's largest mosque, was killed in Xinjiang, Xinhua reported.”
Ben Blanchard of Reuters wrote: “Chinese police shot dead dozens of knife-wielding attackers after they staged assaults on two towns in Xinjiang, Xinhua said. A gang armed with knives had first attacked a police station and government offices in the town of Elixku, in Shache county, it said, quoting local police. Some moved on to the nearby town of Huangdi, attacking civilians and smashing and setting fire to six vehicles. "Police officers at the scene shot dead dozens of members of the mob," the brief report said. An initial investigation showed that it was an "organised and premeditated terrorist attack", Xinhua added. Shache, also known by its Uyghur name of Yarkant, is located in Xinjiang's heavily Uyghur southwestern part, close to the borders of Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. [Source: Ben Blanchard, Reuters, July 30, 2014]
In September 2014, State media reported that Communist Party officials in Xinjiang had punished 17 officials and police officers for their failures relating to the two July incidents. He Limin, the party chief of Shache county, was stripped of his party position and demoted, and the deputy party chief and county police chief were both fired. [Source: Associated Press, September 21, 2014]
In October 2014, a Chinese court sentenced 12 people to death and dozens more to lesser sentences in connection with the attacks near Yarkand, Wall Street Journal reported: “Aside from the 12 sentenced to die, the court in Kashgar prefecture issued death sentences to 15 more people but suspended the punishment for two years, said the Xinjiang government’s Web portal, Tianshan. Nine others were sentenced to life imprisonment, while 20 more were given jail terms spanning four to 20 years, Tianshan said.A death sentence suspended for two years is normally commuted to a life sentence if the convict displays good behavior in prison. Tianshan and state television reports didn’t give the ethnicity of those sentenced, but their names indicated they weren’t from the Han Chinese majority. [Source: Chun Han Wong, Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2014]
40 'rioters' killed in restive Xinjiang
In September 2014, 40 rioters died in a series of planned bomb attacks in Luntai County in Xinjiang. AFP reported: “Forty “rioters” were killed in Xinjiang following a series of explosions. Residents described heavy security in place days after the violence. Six civilians, two police officers and two auxiliary police were also killed in the attacks in Xinjiang’s Luntai county, with 54 civilians injured, the regional government’s news portal Tianshan said. Two “rioters” were captured, it added, while the main suspect, whose name was given as Mamat Tursun, was shot dead. [Source: AFP, September 26, 2014]
Staff at hotels in Luntai county contacted by AFP described a continuing heavy security presence. “Security forces are still in the street,” said one receptionist. A woman who answered the phone at another inn also gave an account of security out in force, and that business had suffered as “lots of people don’t come these days”.
According to the Tianshan report, the “organised and serious” attack comprised four explosions that took place Sunday evening, targeting two police stations, an outdoor market and a shop. Among the 54 civilians injured were 32 members of China’s mostly Muslim Uyghur minority and 22 Han Chinese, it said. The 40 “rioters” killed had either blown themselves up or were shot dead by police, Tianshan said. Police said that Mamat Tursun, the alleged ringleader of the attack, had been “gradually developing into an extremist” since 2003 and had “called on other people to join his terrorist group when working on construction projects”, according Xinhua.
Other Xinjiang Violence in 2014 and 2015
In June 2014, there were several deadly attacks in Xinjiang. An attack facilities in Lukqun in Shanshan county on June 26, killed 24 police officers and civilians, it said. On June 15, Chinese police stopped three knife-wielding attackers in Hetian city, killing two and injuring one, according to a statement posted to Xjht.gov.cn, A week later, police shot dead 13 people Saturday after they drove into a police building in a county outside Hotan and set off an explosion. [Source: AFP, June 24, 2014]
In November 2014, fifteen people were killed and 14 injured when a group in Shache county in Xinjiang threw explosives into a crowded street where vendors were selling food, Xinhua reported. [Source: Reuters, November 30, 2014]
In January 2015, Associated Press, Chinese police shot and killed six would-be bombers in the Shule town in southwest Xinjiang. Associated Press reported: Police were called to a business district in the town of Shule in the morning to investigate a suspicious man carrying what appeared to be an explosive device, according to TS News. It said the man was shot and killed after he charged police with an axe and attempted to detonate the device. Another five suspects with bombs were also shot and killed as police conducted a cleanup operation, the site said, without elaborating. It said no officers or onlookers were injured. No word was given on the identity of the suspects.[Source: Associated Press, January 12, 2015]
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, kepu.net.cn ~; 3) Ethnic China ethnic-china.com *\; 4) Chinatravel.com 5) China.org, the Chinese government news site china.org | 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