Violence has killed 20 people in Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang, bringing again to light the tensions between the Turkic Uighurs and the Chinese Han.
Thirteen innocent people were killed by knives Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. in the “Street of Happiness” in Yecheng (Kargilik in Uighur) by nine violent terrorists. Seven terrorists were shot dead by police and two others were arrested, reported Wednesday evening the website of Xinjiang “Tianshan Net”.
An initial report released Tuesday by Xinhua News Agency reported at least 12 dead, including at least two assailants.
“Most of the victims were Han, but they were also among the Uighurs,” said a police officer named Tuo.
According Dilxat Raxit, spokesman of the World Uyghur Congress, an organization of dissidents in exile, headquartered in Germany, the clashes were between Uighurs and members of law enforcement.
Yecheng authorities have sealed off the town after the incident and arrested over 100 people.
The government accused Uighurs terrorists involved in the violence.
“Many terrorists attacked innocent civilians in Kashgar Prefecture of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, killing several people,” said Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
“Right now the Xinjiang Autonomous Region is experiencing strong growth. The situation is generally good,” said Mr. Hong. “We are firmly opposed to a handful of terrorists conducting separatist sabotage”.
“Yecheng is quite close to the border (with Pakistan). It is a sensitive area,” explained a researcher at the Academy of Social Sciences in Xinjiang, Tu’er Wenjiang on Tianshan Net.
Regions of Kashgar and Hotan in southwest Xinjiang particularly experienced troubles in late July and early August 2011, after which Beijing had sent a brigade of elite anti-terrorist police.
More deadly violence erupted in Xinjiang in July 2009. More than 1,600 people had been injured and nearly 200 killed in Urumqi, capital of the autonomous region.
“We have reports of such incidents on a regular basis since the 1990s or so. It’s hard to say if any more since 2009. But since 2009 these events were more spectacular.” said Barry Sautman, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Chinese authorities had announced in late January recruit 8000 extra police in Xinjiang.