Beijing, Dec. 30 (Reuters): Chinese police shot dead eight people during a “terrorist attack” in Xinjiang today, the government said, raising the death toll from violent clashes there to at least 35 since November.
The attack happened in Yarkand county close to the old Silk Road city of Kashgar in Xinjiang, the regional government said in a statement on its news website — www.ts.cn.
“At around 6.30am, nine thugs carrying knives attacked a police station in Kashgar’s Yarkand county, throwing explosive devices and setting police cars on fire,” it said.
“The police took decisive measures, shooting dead eight and capturing one,” it added, labelling the incident a “violent terrorist attack” which was being investigated.
Xinjiang is home to Turkic-speaking, Muslim people known as Uighurs, some of whom resent what they see as oppressive treatment by the government.
At least 91 people, including several police officers, have been killed in violence in Xinjiang since April, according to state media reports.
This month, police shot and killed 14 people during a riot near Kashgar in which two policemen were also killed.
In a similar outburst of violence, at least nine civilians and two policemen were killed when a group of people armed with axes and knives attacked a police station, also near Kashgar, last month, state media has said.
China has previously blamed some of the violence in Xinjiang on Islamist militants plotting a holy war.
The latest attack showed the serious threat posed by separatism, extremism and terrorism, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang told reporters at a regular press briefing.
“The Chinese government will strike hard against them in accordance with the law,” Qin added.
Many Uighurs chafe at restrictions on their culture, language and religion, though the government insists it grants them broad freedoms.