Aug. 1 – On the eve of the Muslim fasting month Ramadan, a series of deadly conflicts in the western expanses of China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region have left at least 19 dead and dozens wounded, according to Chinese state media reports.
The reports state that on Saturday and Sunday in the city of Kashgar, which is considered by many ethnic Uighurs as the cultural capital of Xinjiang, at least three incidents broke out in which people were killed.
Situated along the old Silk Road near the Tajikistan border, Kashgar is home to a majority of the indigenous Uighurs, who complain about the influx of Han Chinese relocating to Xinjiang. According to some Uighurs, the Han migrants are deteriorating their religion and culture, or in other cases, they feel discriminated by Han job creators who have been known to include clarifications such as “no Uighurs wanted” in job advertisements. Such ethnic tension has led to a number of violent incidents across the region in recent years, with the 2009 riots in Urumqi the most extreme example during which nearly 200 people were killed.
On Saturday night, July 30, two Uighur men armed with knives attacked a truck stopped at a red traffic light in the city’s downtown area. The two men stabbed the truck driver to death and deliberately thrust the vehicle towards a crowd of pedestrians on the street. Soon afterwards, the attackers jumped out of the truck and started to randomly strike at the group of people. Passers-by beat to death one of the assailants and the other was detained by the police. As a result of the incident, at least seven people were killed.
Two blasts were heard nearby shortly after the knife-attack, leaving an additional three dead and 10 injured, state media said, with police among the casualties.
More violence broke out on Sunday when “a group of religious extremists” attacked a downtown restaurant, killing the owner and waiter before setting the building of fire, Kashgar’s city government said in a statement issued Monday morning. The attackers than went into the street and started stabbing civilians indiscriminately, leaving a total of four dead and 12 wounded. Police were forced to open fire on the assailants, killing five attackers.
“A group of religious extremists led by culprits trained in overseas terrorist camps were behind the weekend attack,” a Kashgar government statement said.
Furthermore, unconfirmed sources claim that police have detained around 100 individuals, but official media has reported so far that only four have been arrested. Security officials blamed the attack on a Pakistan-based anti-China separatist group called the “East Turkestan Islamic Movement.”
Only two weeks ago 18 people were killed, including 2 policemen and 14 Uighur attackers, in an assault on a police station in the city of Hotan. After the incident government officials made a clarification, stating that the incident was a result of “a terrorist attack, not an ethnic conflict.”
According to Kashgar residents, at the moment the security level is heightened and the whole region is under tight control.
“The entire city of Kashgar is under martial law, and authorities have arrested at least 100 Uighurs,” the Germany-based World Uighur Congress (WUC) said in a statement.
“There is no way to protest peacefully the Chinese suppression there, and the policy of calculated resettlement,” added Dilxat Raxit, spokesman of the WUC, referring to ethnic Han Chinese relocating to live in Xinjiang.