In China’s Restive West, the Violence Continues

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This report, from Kashgar, comes from Radio Free Asia.

Chinese Police Killed, Wounded in New Xinjiang Clash

HONG KONG, Aug. 28, 2008—Two ethnic Uyghur police officers have been killed and at least two critically injured after new violence erupted near the Silk Road city of Kashgar, authoritative sources and witnesses have told Radio Free Asia (RFA).

The two dead and wounded officers all belong to the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, according to police and the chief nurse at Peyzawat [in Chinese, Jiashi] county hospital. “All of them were stabbed,” the nurse told RFA’s Uyghur service. “Two of them died at the hospital today [Wednesday] and two of them have been sent to the Kashgar Prefecture Hospital because they were in critical condition.”

The nurse, who asked not to be named, said they were brought to the hospital after a clash in Qizilboy village, Jiashi county. “Six or seven people came out and attacked them with knives,” an officer who witnessed the attack said. “Two officers died at the scene—one was the village police chief. Four others were wounded, and four of us escaped.”
A Jiashi county government official, contacted by telephone, confirmed that all the victims had been hospitalized with knife wounds. “They all work for the government,” he said.
The Jiashi county Public Security Bureau declined to comment in detail. “We have not received instructions as to what to say. You should call the command center. We are waiting to receive the specifics from them,” an officer on duty said.

Searching for suspect
The deputy Jiashi county police chief, Omerjan, said in an interview that the police officers—all members of the Uyghur Muslim minority—were searching a cornfield following a tip that a woman suspected of aiding assailants in an earlier attack was hiding there.
“We didn’t expect to come under attack in that cornfield,” Omerjan said. “They [the police] didn’t carry any weapons. Now there are 500 armed Chinese troops searching house to house in the area. It has been almost nine hours, but we still haven’t found anyone.”
In August, assailants attacked a checkpoint in Yamanya town, in Shule county, in which three guards were killed. Following the Yamanya attack, police arrested a Uyghur woman, Anargul, 50. On Wednesday, they were searching for her daughter, indentified as Amangul, 22, according to Omerjan, on suspicion that she aided the Yamanya assailants.
Seven people are sought in connection with the Yamanya attack. Police have identified five of those suspects as Abdurehim Ehet, Keyim Bawudun, Imam Hesen, Hesen Hoshur, and Abdusalam Sultan. Names of the remaining two were unavailable.
“After the Yamanya incident, we organized large public gatherings and asked people to help us find the suspects. We also said we would offer a 50,000-yuan reward to anyone who helped. But still nobody has come forward,” Omerjan said.
All of the officers were unarmed, the deputy police chief and the officer who took part in the search said. The officer added that Uyghur police are generally barred from carrying weapons.
Twenty of the 21 police working in the local police station are Uyghurs and one is Han Chinese, he said. The station owns only two firearms, both of which are locked in storage.

Stepped-up campaign
Exiled Uyghurs meanwhile say authorities in the troubled Xinjiang region have stepped up a campaign to quell separatism among Uyghurs there, making numerous arrests and setting up checkpoints following the worst outbreak of violence there in a decade.
The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, citing communications from the town of Kucha in Xinjiang, said residents there have been barred from travelling outside their own county, with a half-dozen military checkpoints set up to prevent travel.
Kucha was the site of an Aug. 10 attack in which 15 ethnic Uyghurs staged attacks on prominent government buildings, killing a security guard and a civilian. Eight of the attackers were killed and two committed suicide.
Six days earlier, according to China’s official media, 16 police officers died when a group of Uyghurs attacked them with knives and homemade explosives.

No group has claimed responsibility for the deadly bombings and stabbings in August, but police have blamed Uyghur “terrorists.”
The World Uyghur Congress also said hundreds of Uyghurs have been detained in connection with the attacks. No official comment was immediately available.