MOSCOW, July 31 (RIA Novosti) – Dozens of people have been murdered or wounded in what China referred to as a “premeditated terrorist attack” in the country’s restive Xinjiang province July 28, state news agency Xinhua claims citing local police reports that could not be independently verified.
Knife- and axe-wielding assailants attacked civilians and vandalized scores of vehicles, including setting six cars on fire in the town of Huangdi, located in the Shache county, according to Xinhua. Earlier on that day, the crowd attacked government buildings and a police station in another locality, Elixku.
Law enforcement officers shot scores of the rioters dead, the news agency added, describing the decision as well justified. “It prevented more civilian casualties, from both Han and Uygur ethnic groups,” Xinhua writer Gui Tao stated on Tuesday.
The exact number of casualties has not been officially reported. World Uyghur Congress spokesman, Dilxat Raxit, told AFP that the violent incident left around 100 people killed or injured citing local sources.
The attack took place ahead of Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and coincided with a large fair in the Kashi Prefecture. However, it was reported a day later. Xinhua pointed out that the incident was “against the spirit of Ramadan, which is about the practice of self-discipline and self-control.”
Although the investigation is still underway, authorities placed the blame for the Monday attack on the Islamist groups that, according to China, seek to establish an independent nation, East Turkestan. The mob aimed at destabilizing the region and spreading fear and hatred, Xinhua said.
Earlier, on Monday, China’s special envoy for the Middle East, Wu Sike, expressed concern that Xinjiang extremists travel to war-torn Syria and Iraq that serve as training grounds for terrorists, Reuters reported. “After being immersed in extremist ideas, when they return home they will pose a severe challenge and security risk to those countries,” the diplomat said, as quoted by the news agency.
Uyghurs have continuously refuted accusations that they are behind the violence in the autonomous region.
For their part, activists claim that it was the police that attacked the Uyghurs who were protesting against “Chinese security forces’ heavy-handed Ramadan crackdown since the beginning of the Holy Month and extrajudicial use of lethal force in recent weeks in the county,” The Uyghur American Association (UAA) said in a press-release. In early July international media, including BBC, Al Jazeera, TIME, and The Independent among others, reported that Chinese authorities banned Muslim civil servants and school children from participating in religious activities during Ramadan in an alleged bid to protect their wellbeing.
UAA president stated that more violence would follow after China announced a yearlong campaign to tackle terrorist groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, home to the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority in China but majority in the region, and the Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in the country. “China’s newly launched one-year anti-terror campaign promises only more bloodshed, as the fundamental causes of Uyghur grievances remain unaddressed,” he said in a press-release.
The operation was launched after an attack in Xinjiang capital of Urumqi left over 30 people killed and 90 injured May 22 amid deteriorating security situation in the region. It was reported that it would last until June 2015 and is aimed at “preventing the spread of religious extremism” from Xinjiang to the rest of China, the country’s Ministry of Public Security said.
Another deadly attack in Xinjiang took place in March. At least 29 innocent people died and more than 130 were injured in the assault on the Kunming Railway Station carried out by a dozen radicals armed with knives, according to Xinhua.