China knife attack: Eight dead in Xinjiang region

15 February 2017
BBC News

Three assailants killed five people and injured 10 others before they were shot dead by police on Tuesday in Pishan county, local officials said.

No motive was given, but the government often blames Muslim separatists for such attacks.

Xinjiang, an autonomous region, is home to China's Uighur ethnic minority, which is predominantly Muslim.

The region has suffered years of unrest.

Rights groups say the violence is due to the tight controls by the government on the religion and culture of Uighurs. The government denies any repression.

More about Xinjiang

A statement posted on the local government website called the attackers "thugs". It said police were on the scene within minutes.

"At present, social order is normal at the site, society is stable, and investigation work is under way," it said.

The county issued the highest level of security alert after the attack and armed police are patrolling the streets, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper reports.

Dilxat Raxit, of the exiled World Uyghur Congress, told the Agence France-Presse news agency that six people had been arrested, including two young Uighurs who shared information about the incident.

Muslim terrorists blamed for market bombings in China that kill 31

By Cheryl K. Chumley
The Washington Times
Thursday, May 22, 2014

At least 31 were killed and more than 90 injured in bomb blasts that rocked a market area in the northwestern region of Xinjiang in China early Thursday.

Local government authorities said the attack is believed to have been carried out by radical Muslim separatists and described it as the most “serious violent terrorist incident of a particularly vile nature,” CBS reported.

The attackers drove SUVs through metal barriers in the city streets and smashed into the crowd of shoppers, dumping explosives from their vehicle windows onto the ground, CNN said.

The SUVs then crashed into each other head-on and one exploded, an eyewitness told local media.

Recent acts of violence in the volatile region have been blamed on extremists with the Turkie Uighur Muslim ethnic group that seeks to oust China’s influence in the area — and officials say this attack is yet one more committed by the same organization, CBS said.

Photos of the scene showed bodies in the street and a large fire in the background.

Chinese authorities vowed to “severely punish terrorists and spare no efforts in maintaining stability” in response to the market attack, CBS reported.

27 dead, 109 injured in Kunming railway station attack

Published on Mar 02, 2014

KUNMING (AFP, REUTERS) - Unidentified armed men reportedly stormed a railway station in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, yesterday, leaving 27 dead and at least 109 injured, reports said.

State television said on its official microblog that the incident had been deemed a "violent terror attack".

Victims described knife-wielding attackers dressed in black bursting into Kunming railway station and slashing indiscriminately.

Beijing's top security official was reported to be heading to the scene.

The incident "was an organised, premeditated violent terrorist attack" carried out by "unidentified knife-wielding people", the official news agency Xinhua said, citing authorities.

Police shot dead a number of the perpetrators at the train station in southwestern Yunnan province, according to posts by local television station K6 on its official Sina Weibo account, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Officers sealed off a wide area around the station, it added, while Xinhua said they were still questioning people at the site.

Meanwhile ambulances had delivered the injured to hospitals around the city, K6 reported.

The attackers carried knives and were dressed in similar black clothing, the official China News Service said, citing eyewitnesses.

"A group of men carrying weapons burst into the train station plaza and the ticket hall, stabbing whoever they saw," it said.

Photos posted on Sina Weibo showed blood spattered across the floor and medical staff crouching over bodies lying on the ground, although the authenticity of the images could not be verified.

Crowds gathered outside the station among police officers and ambulances, the images also showed.

State broadcaster CCTV also called the incident a "terrorist attack" on its Weibo account.

China's top security official Meng Jianzhu would travel to Kunming, it said, while President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent condolences to the victims and their families.

Yunnan has no history of violent attacks, and the motive for the stabbings was not immediately clear.

China's Xinjiang hit by deadly clashes

24 April 2013
BBC News

Clashes in China's restive Xinjiang region have left 21 people dead, including 15 police officers and officials, authorities say.

The violence occurred on Tuesday afternoon in Bachu county, Kashgar prefecture.

The foreign ministry said it had been a planned attack by a "violent terrorist group", but ethnic groups questioned this.

There have been sporadic clashes in Xinjiang in recent years.

The incidents come amid rumbling ethnic tensions between the Muslim Uighur and Han Chinese communities. In 2009 almost 200 people - mostly Han Chinese - were killed after deadly rioting erupted.

It is very difficult to verify reports from Xinjiang, reports the BBC's Celia Hatton.

Foreign journalists are allowed to travel to the region but frequently face intimidation and harassment when attempting to verify news of ethnic rioting or organised violence against government authorities.


Hou Hanmin, director of the Xinjiang government's propaganda department, said Tuesday's clashes began as officials described as community workers searched homes for weapons.

She told the BBC's Chinese service that three of the workers were killed as they were investigating reports of suspicious individuals at the home of a local resident.

Unarmed police then arrived to investigate the workers' earlier reports and were attacked, said Ms Hou. Three "thugs" died and nine police officers were cornered in a house which was then set on fire, she said, calling the incident a "planned terrorist attack" on innocent victims.

There was no information on the identity of the assailants. Ten of the officials and police killed were ethnic Uighurs, the local authorities said.

Eight people were arrested.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said initial police investigations showed it had been "a premeditated attack carried out by a violent terrorist group".

She said the security situation in Xinjiang was "good in general, but a small cluster of terrorist forces are still doing their very best to upset and sabotage Xinjiang's stability and development".

"I believe their plan goes against the will of the people and is doomed to fail," she told a news conference.

But Dilxat Raxit, a spokesperson for the World Uighur Congress, an umbrella organisation of Uighur groups, told the BBC the incident was caused by the killing of a young Uighur by Chinese "armed personnel" as a result of a government clean-up campaign.

Uighurs make up about 45% of the region's population, but say an influx of Han Chinese residents has marginalised their traditional culture.

Beijing authorities often blame violent incidents in Xinjiang on Uighur extremists seeking autonomy for the region. Uighur activists, meanwhile, accuse Beijing of over-exaggerating the threat to justify heavy-handed rule.

In March, 20 people were jailed on terrorism and separatism charges in the region. Last August courts jailed another 20 people on similar charges in Xinjiang.

Muslims clash with Chinese police who destroyed mosque

AFPMonday, Jan 02, 2012

BEIJING - Hundreds of Muslims fought with armed police who demolished a mosque in China's northwest, local police and a human rights group said on Monday, with several people injured in the "riot".

The violence between local Muslims and roughly 1,000 armed police began after police declared illegal a newly built mosque in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and moved to destroy it, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, in Hong Kong, said.

Two people were killed and 50 injured after police fired tear gas and used knives and batons to beat back ethnic Hui Muslim protesters in Taoshan village, Hexi township, the rights group said, citing villagers.

Hexi township police denied any deaths when reached by telephone.

A policeman surnamed Ma confirmed that the mosque was torn down.

He told AFP a "riot" occurred in Hexi on Saturday afternoon.

"Two police officers and two villagers got injured and several villagers were taken away by the police, but I don't know how many," Ma said.

The Hong Kong-based rights group said in a fax that Muslims from Ningxia and the neighbouring province of Gansu had donated money to build the mosque.

Muslim militant group claims western China attacks

By CHI-CHI ZHANG, Associated Press – 9-7-2011

BEIJING (AP) — A militant Muslim group claimed by video it carried out recent attacks in western China that killed at least three dozen people, a monitoring group said.

The video was purportedly made by the Turkistan Islamic Party, which seeks independence for China's western Xinjiang region, the SITE Intelligence Group said this week. The militants are believed to be based in Pakistan, where security experts say core members have been trained by al-Qaida.

Xinjiang is home to largely Muslim ethnic Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gur) who say they have been marginalized by an influx of China's majority Han to the region. Ethnic riots there two years ago killed at least 197 people.

Security has been raised, but still, dozens were killed in slashings and arson and hit-and-run attacks in the cities of Hotan and Kashgar in July.

The more than 10-minute video released in late August features Turkistan Islamic Party leader Abdul Shakoor Damla, whose face is blotted out, saying those attacks were revenge against the Chinese government.

Ben Venzke, of Washington-based IntelCenter, another monitor of militant groups, said TIP threatened to attack the 2008 Beijing Olympics and should be taken seriously.

"Their profile has been heightened since threats made during the Olympics and videos have shown us that they have even received recognition from senior al-Qaeda leaders recognizing their presence in China," Venzke said.

In 2008, TIP released videos claiming responsibility for several bus bombings in China and warned Muslims to stay away from any place Han Chinese were, including buses, planes, buildings and trains.

"TIP is a very real jihadist group and their threats should be taken seriously. In addition to being active in China, we also have seen videos of them conducting operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan," Venzke said.

The latest video shows a brief biography and footage of what it says is Memtieli Tiliwaldi wrestling with other fighters in a TIP training camp. Xinjiang police had identified Tiliwaldi as a suspect in the July attacks and said they fatally shot him in a corn field days later.

In the video, group leader Damla speaks in the Turkic language of the Uighurs, who have with a long history of tense relations with the central government.

Militant Uighurs have for decades been fighting a low-level insurgency to gain independence for lightly populated but resource-rich Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and several unstable Central Asian states.

Beijing blames the violence on militants based overseas, specifically from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, but has not revealed much of the evidence behind its suspicions. Some terrorism experts say ETIM and TIM are affiliated, while others say it is one group operating under different names.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said he had no information on the video and claims.

He repeated China's assertion that Xinjiang separatists are carrying out "rampant, violent terrorist activities within China's border, which seriously undermine China's national unity and regional peace and stability."

Liu said China was willing to join and strengthen international efforts to combat terrorism.

Uighur activists and security analysts blame the violence on economic marginalization and restrictions on Uighur culture and the Muslim religion that are breeding frustration and anger among young Uighurs.

China's leaders say all ethnic groups are treated equally and point to the billions of dollars in investment that has modernized Xinjiang.

Chinese officials said last week they recently thwarted several plots by separatists, religious extremists and terrorists to sabotage an international trade fair in the region.

Xinjiang is currently under a two-month crackdown against violence, terrorism and radical Islam following renewed unrest among Uighurs in July.

China blames Muslim extremists for attack in Xinjiang

By Chris Buckley
BEIJING | Mon Aug 1, 2011

(Reuters) - China said on Monday that Islamic militants had mounted an attack that left 11 people dead in the restive western region of Xinjiang, which announced a crackdown on "illegal" religious activities at the start of the Muslim fasting month.

The attack in Kashgar city on Sunday afternoon was the latest violence to rattle the region where Muslim Uighurs have long resented the presence of Han Chinese and religious and political controls imposed by Beijing.

It came less than 24 hours after two small blasts hit the city, which is dominated by Uighurs.

"The malign intention behind this violent terror was to sabotage inter-ethnic unity and harm social stability, provoking ethnic hatred and creating ethnic conflict," the Kashgar government said on its website (

Captured suspects confessed that their ringleaders had earlier fled to Pakistan and joined the separatist "East Turkestan Islamic Movement," and received training in making firearms and explosives before infiltrating back into China, the Kashgar government said.

"The members of this group all adhere to extremist religious ideas and adamantly support Jihad," said the statement, referring to the Arabic term for struggle used by advocates of militant Islam to describe their cause.

Police shot dead five people and arrested four others after they stormed a restaurant, set in on fire after killing the owner and a waiter, and then ran onto the street and hacked to death four people, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Chinese-language Global Times newspaper said all the suspected attackers were Uighur.

For the ruling Communist Party, the bloodshed presents a tricky test of its control in Xinjiang, where Uighur and Han Chinese residents view each other with suspicion.

Beijing has been wary of contagion from uprisings across the Arab world inspiring challenges to Party power in China.

"I think it's a testament to how tense the region remains, and the fact that you have increased polarization between ethnic groups," said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher on China for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group.

"There's a lot of pent-up anger and resentment of Chinese policies in Kashgar," added Bequelin, noting a controversial program to raze homes in traditional Uighur neighborhoods and relocate them to housing under firmer official control.

The top Communist Party official in Xinjiang, Zhang Chunxian, announced a crackdown on religious extremism and vowed harsh punishment for those found guilty of attacks, according to the region's official news website (

"(We will) resolutely attack religious extremist forces and effectively curb illegal religious activities," Zhang said.


Kashgar city lies in Xinjiang's south and has a population of some 600,000 people, about four fifths of them Uighur, according to the government. The city is divided between Uighur and Han Chinese areas, and many residents depend on tourism for their livelihoods.

China sees Xinjiang as strategically vital, and Beijing has shown no sign of loosening its grip on the territory, which accounts for a sixth of the country's land mass and holds deposits of oil and gas.

In July 2009, the regional capital, Urumqi, was rocked by violence between majority Han Chinese and minority Uighurs that killed nearly 200 people, many of them Han Chinese.

Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking people who have usually not embraced stricter forms of Islam, but in recent years religious traditionalism has made inroads.

Critics of Chinese policy in Xinjiang and advocates of Uighur self-rule say that Beijing has exaggerated the influence of terror groups, and its tough policies have deepened Uighur anger by smothering avenues for peaceful protest.

Bequelin, the human rights researcher, said he was skeptical about Chinese suggestions that the "East Turkestan Islamic Movement" (ETIM) was behind the attack.

"It's now an umbrella term used by China for any kind of Uighur separatist or anti-state activity," Bequelin said of ETIM, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States in 2002.

Earlier on Sunday, Chinese media reported that two men wielding knives attacked a truck driver and then a crowd of people following two explosions in Kashgar on Saturday night, leaving eight people dead including one of the attackers.

Eighteen people including 14 "rioters" were killed in an attack on a police station in Xinjiang on July 18, according to the government.

In July 2009, Xinjiang was hit by a public backlash from Han Chinese residents of the regional capital Urumqi, who said officials acted too slowly to quell bloody rioting by Uighurs after police broke up a protest by Uighur students.

The latest attack also brought calls on the Chinese Internet for a harsh response.

China says terrorist group broken up in Xinjiang

June 24, 2010

BEIJING — China said Thursday it has crushed a gang of Muslim terrorists that plotted attacks after deadly ethnic violence in the northwestern region of Xinjiang last year.

Public Security Ministry spokesman Wu Heping said the "hard-core terrorists" had gathered pipe bombs, molotov cocktails, knives and other weapons to carry out attacks in southern Xinjiang cities between July and October 2009. He said the plot was discovered and more than 10 gang members were arrested, while others fled to different parts of China and overseas.

Wu claimed the group was linked to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a banned organization advocating independence for Xinjiang that China says is allied with al-Qaida.

The announcement comes just before the anniversary of last year's violence, in which long-simmering tensions between Turkic Muslim Uighurs and majority Han Chinese migrants turned deadly in the regional capital, Urumqi, on July 5.

According to official count, nearly 200 people died in the violence, which Beijing claims was plotted by overseas Uighur activists.

Wu's claims could not be independently verified and were questioned by Uighur activists overseas.

Though Wu did not identify what countries the suspects fled to, he said three were among a group deported to China in December. That same month, Cambodia repatriated 20 Uighurs it said had illegally entered the country, touching off an international outcry.

"The uncovering of this major terrorist group again proves that the ETIM and other terrorist organizations constitute the gravest terrorist threat that our nation faces at this present time and in the future," Wu told a media briefing.

Slides shown at the briefing showed knives and what appeared to be pipe bombs made from black powder and ball bearings. Another showed a minivan and a four-wheel drive vehicle allegedly used by the gang, while a third showed a kitchen-like room described as a bomb factory in Xinjiang.

Wu said the group was behind a pair of deadly attacks aimed at disrupting the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He said it swung into action again following last July's rioting, the worst communal violence to hit Xinjiang in more than a decade. Resentment among Uighurs has been fueled by what many see as Beijing's heavy-handed controls on religion and policies that favor the Han Chinese migrants flooding into their traditional homeland.

The riots, and the harsh crackdown that followed, inspired a new generation of terrorist cells with only rudimentary skills but a strong desire to carry out attacks, said Singapore-based terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna.

"China faces an enduring medium to low-level threat from terror and extremism and that threat increased after the riots," Gunaratna said in a telephone interview.

The relatively unsophisticated nature of such operations reflects the immense pressure militants face from the powerful, well-funded security forces. Unlike across the border in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Uighur militants find it extremely difficult to communicate and organize effectively and have no apparent access to firearms and military-grade explosives.

Overseas Uighur activist Dilxat Raxit said Beijing had made "unilateral accusations" and its lack of transparency raises questions about the investigation and purported evidence.

The Rev. Marcus Ramsey, director of the Macau Interfaith Network that collaborated with other missionary groups to help the Uighurs escape to Cambodia, also said greater transparency was needed to give the accusations credibility.

Liu Shanying, a security analyst at the official Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, dismissed such complaints and called the gang's defeat a "major breakthrough in counter-terrorism."

Associated Press Writer Gillian Wong contributed to this report.


Prepare to fight China, Qaeda figure tells Uighurs

Wed Oct 7, 2009 4:31am EDT
By Inal Ersan

DUBAI, Oct 7 (Reuters) - A prominent al Qaeda militant urged Uighurs in Xianjiang to make serious preparations for a holy war against "oppressive" China and called on fellow Muslims to offer support.

Abu Yahya al-Libi, in a video posted on an Islamist website on Wednesday, warned China of a fate similar to that of former communist superpower, the Soviet Union, which disintegrated some two decades ago.

"The state of atheism is heading to its fall. It will face what befell the Russian bear (Soviet Union)," he said in the message in which he accused China of committing massacres against Uighurs and seeking to dissolve their identity.

Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up a Marxist government against Islamist fighters, but was ground down by guerrilla warfare and withdrew in 1988-89. Al Qaeda emerged from the groups that fought Soviet forces at the time.

Uighurs are Muslim native to Xinjiang province, which Islamists call East Turkistan, and have cultural ties to Turkic peoples in Central Asia.

"There is no way to remove injustice and oppression without a true return to their (Uighurs) religion and ... serious preparation for jihad in the path of God the Almighty and to carry weapons in the face of those (Chinese) invaders," he said.

"It is a duty for Muslims today to stand by their wounded and oppressed brothers in East Turkistan ... and support them with all they can," said Libi.

He also accused China of using "satanic ways" to oppress Muslims in the province and replace them with other ethnicities while "looting their wealth and undermining their culture and religion."

Beijing does not want to lose its grip on Xinjiang in the far West. The vast territory borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It has abundant oil reserves and is China's largest natural gas-producing region.


Libi said Muslims around the world needed to be made aware of the situation of Uighurs in China.

"Consecutive Chinese governments have worked hard to sever every link between the wounded people of Turkistan and the Muslim nation," he said. "They are applying (policies) for their demise and destruction so that their numbers would decline and its Islamic identity would be dissolved."

In August, the leader of a group calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) urged Muslims to attack Chinese interests to punish Beijing for what he described as massacres against Uighur Muslims.

TIP, which has claimed violent attacks in the past including bombing two public buses in Shanghai in May 2008, has launched violent attacks in the past and accused China of committing "barbaric massacres" against Muslims in Xianjiang.

The province witnessed a wave of violence in July when Uighurs attacked Han Chinese in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, after police tried to break up a protest against fatal attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in south China.

The violence saw 197 people killed and more than 1,600 wounded, mostly Han Chinese. About 1,000 people, mostly Uighurs, have been detained in an ensuing government crackdown.


‘Death to China’ heard at Rafsanjani sermon. Why?

Protesters also targeted Russia. Both countries had quickly recognized President Ahmadinejad's reelection victory last month.

By Kristen Chick
Correspondent 07.17.09

The US received a tiny reprieve from playing the role of the “Great Satan” in Iran Friday when protesters directed their ire toward a few of America’s global rivals instead.

“Death to China!” and “Death to Russia!” chanted supporters of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi during a sermon by influential former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, according to news reports. Mr. Rafsanjani used the speech to criticize the government’s crackdown on dissent following the contested June 12 election.

The Associated Press reports that the slogan broke out after hard-line supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yelled out the familiar “Death to America” chant during the speech. And Nico Pitney of The Huffington Post posted a YouTube video showing an outdoors rally in Tehran today, in which he says the protesters are chanting in Farsi “Russia, do us a favor and let go of our country!”

Both regimes recognized Ahmadinejad’s reelection
But the US government shouldn’t get too hopeful that it will be replaced as Public Enemy No. 1.

The enmity likely stems partly from Russia and China’s early recognition of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government-certified victory in the disputed election. Mr. Mousavi maintains that the vote was fradulent, and his supporters are bitter toward the two regimes for backing Ahmadinejad.

China’s treatment of Uighurs also a factor
The sentiment toward China also may be related to the Chinese government’s forceful clamping down on violent ethnic riots between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang Province on July 5. China says that 46 Uighurs died in the violence, while Uighur exile groups maintain the number is much higher.

Several accounts of Rafsanjani’s speech say the chants against China broke out after the cleric condemned China’s crackdown in Xinjiang. The Guardian, liveblogging the speech, reports: “Rafsanjani criticizes China’s suppression of Uighur unrest. His comments are greeted with rebellious cries of ‘Down with China.’ ”

Saeed Valadbaygi, liveblogging the sermon at Revolutionary Road, has this account: “Rafsanjani condemns China. People chanted ‘Death to China.’ He asks that people stop their chants.” He quotes Rafsanjani as saying “China has a rational government. It must look at how it can benefit from its relations with the Islamic world. We hope that we will no longer be witness to such atrocities towards Muslims in China or anywhere else in the world.”

Iran censored coverage of Uighur unrest
The Monitor reported recently that Muslim reaction to the unrest in Xinjiang has been, for the most part, notably muted. (An exception is Turkey, where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the events “genocide” against the Uighurs, the Monitor reported. And on the extremist fringe, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb threatened to attack Chinese citizens in North Africa in retaliation.)

The Iranian government has been criticized for its tepid response to the Uighur killings. The New York Times reported that three prominent clerics condemned the government for not denouncing China’s treatment of Uighurs, criticism laden with pointed domestic implications as well.

One of the clerics, Ayatollah Youssef Sanei, a reformist, drew a sardonic parallel, suggesting that Iran, which considers itself the defender of Muslims worldwide, could not criticize China’s repressive tactics while it was doing the same thing. He also said Iran’s silence was related to its commercial, military and political links with China.

The Guardian’s Tehran correspondent said that Iranian state-run media censored coverage of the riots in Xinjiang, and “did not refer to Uighur protesters as Muslims, but called them ‘hooligans.’ “

China releases terror blacklist in Olympic plot


BEIJING (AP) — Chinese police called for the extradition Tuesday of eight alleged separatists accused of plotting a campaign of terror to coincide with the Beijing Olympics — a scheme that reportedly included bomb attacks within China and in unspecified countries in the Middle East and South Asia.

A Public Security Ministry spokesman said the eight men, all Chinese citizens, were believed to have financed, incited and organized attacks during and around the Aug. 8-24 games as part of an ongoing insurgency against Chinese rule in the traditionally Muslim west.

Wu told reporters at a news briefing that the men were members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a murky collection of extremists believed to be based across the border in lawless areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan

The eight "seriously threatened the security of the Beijing Olympic Games and China's social stability, while at the same time composing a threat to the security and stability of relevant countries and the region," Wu said.

Wu did not say where the men were suspected of hiding and left the briefing without taking questions.

He said one of the men planned to bomb a supermarket popular with Chinese business people in an unspecified Middle Eastern country ahead of the opening of the Olympic Games. Another suspect had prepared to attack a Chinese club in a South Asian nation, he said, without giving details.

The men also organized numerous attacks within China but it was not clear from Wu's statement if any of them were carried out.

After years of relative quiet, the western region of Xinjiang was rocked in August by a series of guerrilla-style attacks and bombings that killed 33 people.

Wu did not say if the eight men were thought to be behind those attacks.

The violence was reportedly carried out by radicals among Xinjiang's native Uighur ethnic group, Muslims whose language, culture and religion is distinct from China's Han majority. Like Tibetans, many Uighurs complain of a colonial-style Chinese presence on their territory, chafing under tight religious and cultural strictures and complaining that economic development has disproportionately benefited Chinese migrants.

China says it has stopped a number of other terrorist plots before they could be carried out, including an alleged attempt by a 19-year-old woman to blow up a Beijing-bound plane with liquid explosives in March of this year. But it has provided little direct evidence to support authorities' claims that they were ordered by Islamic Movement leaders based across the border.

Overseas Uighur activists say such accusations are politically motivated and designed to justify strict curbs on religious, political and cultural rights in Xinjiang.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uighur Congress, said Tuesday's announcement was part of an attempt to provide legal cover for a wide-ranging crackdown on Uighurs that followed the Olympics.

China's refusal to publicly release evidence or allow an independent investigation into the recent attacks undercuts its accusations of terrorism, he said.

"I have never heard of these people and none of these accusations have been independently confirmed, but I'm sure they will use them to ratchet up pressure further in Xinjiang," Raxit said in a telephone interview.

A news release issued at Wu's press conference offered basic biographical information about the men and vague claims about their alleged terrorist activities. Photographs of seven of the eight men were also included.

It identified one man, 37-year-old Memetiming Memeti, as the leader of the movement, saying he had joined the group in an unidentified South Asian country after leaving home in 1998 and assumed the leadership after its former chief was killed in a skirmish with security forces in Pakistan in 2003.

The statement said that under Memeti's guidance an unspecified number of terrorists sneaked into Xinjiang and other Chinese areas with plans to "sabotage the Olympic Games by conducting terrorist attacks within the Chinese territory before the Games opened."

He also allegedly "sent dozens of terrorist teams to some Middle East and west Asian countries to raise funds and buy explosive materials for terrorist attacks against Chinese targets outside Chinese territory."

Others accused include 33-year-old university graduate Tuersun Toheti, an alleged bomb maker blamed for planning attacks on Chinese targets outside the country.

The release did not link the men to specific incidents, although one of them bore the alias "Saifula" that was also used by a man shown issuing threats against the Olympics on a videotaped messaged released in July. In the video, a masked man speaking Uighur claimed responsibility for a bus bombing in the Chinese city of Kunming and warned spectators and athletes, "particularly the Muslims," not to attend the Olympics.

Li Wei, a counterterrorism expert at a Chinese government-backed think tank, said Tuesday's announcement was a sign of China's sustained commitment to defeating the extremists following the end of the Olympics.

"China's major investment in Olympic security has helped them apprehend evidence of potential terrorist activity," said Li, who speculated that the eight named men were hiding in neighboring Central Asian states.

"However, counterterrorism is also a long-term task which the government should devote their resources to continuously," Li said.


China marks Muslim area's 50th year Saturday 01 October 2005

China has marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Xinjiang as an autonomous region, as activists say anti-Chinese sentiment is rising in the Muslim-majority frontier region.

Muslim Uighur separatists, who Beijing says are terrorists trying to split China, have been struggling for decades for self-determination in the remote northwestern region formally established on 1 October 1955.

China says its system of ''autonomous regions'' for ethnic minorities allows them a degree of self-governance, but activists say it is a means for Beijing to maintain tight control.

"Ever since the establishment of the autonomous region 50 years ago, Uighur government workers have never had the right to make decisions. They are all made by the Han Chinese," said Dilxat Raxit, of the World Uighur Congress, a Germany-based group seeking more freedoms for the region they call East Turkestan.

A delegation of Chinese leaders, led by security chief Luo Gan, was on hand in the Xinjiang capital, Urumuqi, for anniversary celebrations that started on Saturday with a flag-raising and cannon shots.

"The unprecedented achievements Xinjiang has made in the past 50 years have proven that only by upholding the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and taking the socialist path can there be ... happiness for Xinjiang people from all ethnic groups," Luo said at the ceremony broadcast live on state television.

Warnings of violence

Despite the gala song and dance shows aimed at showcasing ethnic unity, Luo repeated warnings of potential violence.

"We have to further ... oppose and crack down on forces of ethnic separatism, religious extremism and violent terrorism and safeguard social stability and national security," he said.

This past week, Luo told police to "prepare for danger" in Xinjiang, accusing dissidents of plotting to sabotage the celebrations.

The United States warned American travellers ahead of the anniversary to be vigilant against "terrorist" attacks there.

The Public Security Ministry last month labelled East Turkestan forces as the main "terrorist" threat to China, and said more than 260 "terrorist" acts had been committed in Xinjiang in the past two decades, killing 160 and wounding 440.

But a report this year by Human Rights Watch said China was using its support for the US "war on terror" to justify a wider crackdown on Uighurs that was characterised by arbitrary arrests, closed trials and the use of the death penalty.

The World Uighur Congress said 1 October should be marked as a day of mourning in the region, and added that while the group did not support violence, frustration with Chinese rule was growing.

"The Uighur people in East Turkestan are in a very hopeless, desperate and frustrated situation. Continued hopelessness could lead to violence," the group said in a statement.



Muslim voices rising in China

By Jehangir S. Pocha, Boston Globe Correspondent

November 19, 2006

HETIAN, China -- On a recent Friday, the holy day of Islam, crowds swelled inside the antique Jame mosque, the largest in this ancient town in Xinjiang Province in the far west of China, home to the nation's small but restive Muslim minority.

The turbaned and bearded clerics who preached to the gathered faithful had all been vetted for their political beliefs by local Chinese authorities, who determine what sermons they can give, what version of the Koran they may use, and where and how religious gatherings can be held.

The Chinese government forces all Muslims in China to adhere to a state-controlled version of their religion, and banners placed around town warn locals not to stray from the official faith. The imams are not even allowed to issue the call to prayer using a public address system.

The Chinese government has tightened its constraints on the Uighur ethnic minority in western China amid official fears of a rise in militant Islam. The Chinese are acutely aware of the growing strategic importance of Xinjiang in Central Asia and the large oil and natural gas reserves under its soil.

In turn, resentment among the Uighurs toward perceived repression by the Chinese has intensified. And increasingly, the Uighurs are speaking out and demanding autonomy, thanks in part to the emergence of articulate Uighur voices at home and in exile.

Though Xinjiang is ostensibly an autonomous province, Wang Lequan, the local Communist Party secretary, who is Chinese, has publicly called for Uighurs (pronounced Wee'-gurs) to learn more Mandarin and adopt more Chinese customs.

To dissuade Uighur youths from inheriting their traditional Islamic culture, the government has banned children from entering mosques, studying Islam, or celebrating Islamic holidays.

During the month of Ramadan, when devout Muslims fast through the day, schools take special care to ensure that all their students eat, a local school principal said.

The fear and state control under which Uighurs live in Xinjiang was apparent when some foreign journalists, who are generally not allowed into the province, were taken on a tour by Chinese officials last month. The journalists were carefully monitored, but when they did manage to go out alone, most Uighurs were too scared to talk about the antipathy they bear toward China.

A man who identified himself only as Abdel rubbed his clean-shaven chin anxiously as the four Uighur Muslim friends finished their dinner of goat soup and noodles.

"The government doesn't allow young people here to grow beards," he said as the sun set. "If you do, they will send you to the forced labor camps. This is a communist country and it is scared of Muslims. Our Uighur ethnic group is suppressed the most."

Abdel asked not to be fully identified out of fear of reprisal from local authorities. But his is just one of the angry whispers filtering through the crumbling buildings and twisted alleys of Xinjiang's Uighur cities and villages.

Resentment against Beijing has been building here since 1949, when Mao Zedong annexed the independent nation of East Turkestan and began to assimilate it into mainland China. To do this Beijing imposed strictures on Islam and sought to dilute the culture of the local Uighurs, a Central Asian people with a Turkic-Persian culture.

Abdel fidgeted uncomfortably throughout the few minutes he talked to the journalists, saying the biggest problem Uighurs face is that of social and economic exclusion.

"The truth is, where you see money there will be Han, where there is poverty you will see us Uighurs," Abdel said. Han is an ethnic group that makes up the majority of China .

Some Chinese officials say they are baffled by the criticism China receives for its policy on Xinjiang, where the nation's relatively small Muslim population of about 8 million is concentrated.

"On the one hand the world complains that Pakistan doesn't do enough to control its madrassas, and on the other they complain when China does not allow them," said one official, referring to Muslim religious schools. The official asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to the press. "We believe Islam can be an unbalancing force so we need to control it."

Though Uighurs have traditionally followed a moderate blend of Sunni Islam and Sufi mysticism strongly influenced by local folklore and rural traditions, a rising Islamic mood is palpable in Xinjiang. More and more women are wearing veils, residents say, and mosques are packed on Fridays.

Mostly this is due to a rising interest in religion that is common across much of China, where people are reacting to the intense atheism of the Maoist years. But in Xinjiang, rising Islamic sentiment has also taken on a political hue, with many separatists demanding the re-creation of an independent East Turkestan on religious grounds. Some of these separatists have conducted armed attacks against Chinese targets, and Chinese officials say they are also behind most of the public protests that have rocked Xinjiang in recent years.

After the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, Chinese authorities have used the global war on terrorism to crack down on suspected separatists. Plainclothes policemen routinely roam the rustic mosques and bustling markets of Uighur towns. Human rights groups and local residents say anyone thought to be acting suspiciously is hustled away and often punished without a fair trial.

Though Chinese actions in Xinjiang have been very similar to its actions in neighboring Tibet, whose Buddhist culture has been systematically undermined by Beijing, the situation in this remote western province has received much less global attention.

That is changing, thanks to the emergence of a new generation of articulate Uighur leaders and to growing support for Uighur separatists from Islamists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other Central Asian countries -- part of the global upsurge in pan-Islamism.

Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur exile living in Washington, D.C., who reportedly had been considered a leading candidate for this year's Nobel Peace Prize for her human rights work in Xinjiang, says the world is taking notice of the Uighurs' suffering from what they see as Chinese colonization.

"The Chinese have denied us basic rights and freedoms -- that's why we now want them out of our land," Kadeer said in a telephone interview. "A lot of doors are being opened to me [in Washington] so I am able to raise the issue of the Uighur people at very high levels."

In the streets of Hetian, it is easy to see how different Xinjiang is from most of the rest of China. The skyline is crowded not with traditional Chinese sloping roofs but with Islamic domes and spires. Most of the older buildings have elegant Turko-Persian style balconies decorated with floral filigree work, and men wearing doppas -- small four- or five-cornered brimless embroidered hats -- sit on benches in the street smoking water pipes and eating grilled skewers of meat.

But Chinese officials insist Xinjiang was historically part of China until the Soviet Union briefly helped separatists create East Turkestan in the 1930s.

Part of the reason China is tightening its grip on Xinjiang is its growing strategic importance. The province has been found to be rich in oil. It also borders Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and has become an essential launching pad for China's geopolitical interests in these areas, where the United States is also jockeying for influence.

Beijing is also worried that the disintegration of the Soviet Union and emergence of the independent "Stans" could motivate Uighurs to re-create East Turkestan.

Faced with the might of the Chinese state, many Uighurs fear their unique Persian-Turkic culture, which also includes its own language, will soon fade into history.

Ahmet, a 16-year-old student in Kashgar, a city near Xinjiang's southern border with Pakistan that is a hotbed of insurgent activity, said the solution his parents are holding out is simple.

"They tell me to marry a Han girl," he said. "That way we can get some chances. Otherwise, as Uighurs, life is very hard." 


In China's Far West, Violence Is Just The Eruption of Long-Pent Tension


The Wall Street Journal
August 8, 2008; Page A9

KASHGAR, China -- When Dang Dongming completed a military tour in this remote corner of western China, he did an increasingly common thing. He stayed.

The 26-year-old son of a farmer from China's Gansu province refers affectionately to Kashgar as "an oasis in the desert," a good spot to practice his hobby of photography and to build a car tour business. He even learned to speak the Turkic language of local Muslim Uighurs.

But Mr. Dang doesn't feel welcome. As a member of China's dominant Han ethnic group, Mr. Dang says, "I'm a minority here."

Historically an important way station between east and west on the Silk Road, Kashgar today is a flash point of ethnic tension in China. Sometimes the unrest is punctuated by violence, as in a deadly attack on 16 policemen this week.

More often, though, the anxieties are reflected in a daily disconnect over food, fashion, religion and language. There are the newcomers like Mr. Dang, hoping to make their fortune on the nation's frontier, and the area's 13 other ethnic groups, who feel they are being shoved aside in the gold rush. China's government has encouraged the westward push -- by bolstering infrastructure links to the richer east, for instance -- partly to bring the outlying regions in line with the nation's extraordinary economic boom. Tibet festers with similar tensions, apparent this March when Tibetans rampaged against Han business owners in Lhasa.

Local groups like the Uighurs complain of the Communist Party's heavy hand in their religious affairs and challenges to other aspects of traditional life, while officials in Beijing express frustration about what they perceive as ingratitude for the money they have invested in the region.

The two groups can't even agree on the time of day. Hans recognize the national time zone called "Beijing time," while the watches on Uighur wrists are set two hours earlier to reflect their city's location roughly 2,200 miles west of the Chinese capital.

Chinese authorities described Monday's attack here in Xinjiang province as the work of two men affiliated with a terrorist separatist movement. On Aug. 1, a Xinjiang separatist organization that calls itself the Turkistan Islamic Party released a video with a burning Olympics logo and an explosion superimposed on one of the venues for the Olympic Games starting today in Beijing, according to IntelCenter, a Virginia organization that monitors such releases. The government blamed people with similar ties for an attempt in March to blow up an airliner that had taken off from Urumqi, the capital city of the vast Xinjiang region that includes Kashgar.

"The attack won't have a big impact on Kashgar's development," says the city's top Communist Party official, Shi Dagang. "This is a very promising piece of land."

Yet the Uighurs and the fast-growing population of transplanted Hans occupy what looks like two Kashgars. Ethnic Hans are rarely seen near the city's traditional Uighur bazaar, where the walls are made of mud and blacksmiths pound iron into door hinges and pots. Instead, they shop at a modern market with escalators and a guard who checks handbags for weapons. Visible from the grounds of a 556-year-old mosque in the old city and rising from behind mud structures is a new Ferris wheel, and beyond that a 59-foot-tall statue of Mao Zedong. Feeding suspicions, few speak the other's language.

Uighurs say they are afraid to speak out. To explain why, an unemployed Uighur sitting in a restaurant demonstrates by grabbing his own neck and forcing it near the floor, then putting his hands behind his back as if he were being handcuffed. Another Uighur, a guard at a hospital entrance, describes an often intimidating police presence in the city, but cautions as a Han person approaches, "Don't tell her what I said."

Han people worry that they are surrounded by devout followers of a religion they don't understand well. Mr. Dang, for instance, claims he can identify Islamic fundamentalists by their long beards and draped jackets. "When they come close to me, I'm afraid," he says.

Mr. Dang says the language training the military gave him offers him some insight into the Turkic-speaking community around him. But he concedes that most of the conversations he overhears are about no more than "what happened yesterday or today." The worst thing he has heard a Uighur say involved applying to individual Han a derogatory term for the Chinese military that translates as "black jacket."

Mr. Dang agrees with a widespread view among Uighurs that Han people tend to have better jobs and more money, but he says it reflects hard work and education.

After his rural boyhood in mountainous Gansu, Mr. Dang joined the military at 17 and spent two years in Tibet before being sent to Xinjiang by the People's Armed Police, a paramilitary unit. After two years, Mr. Dang dropped out of the service but decided to stay in Kashgar. "I don't have much pressure here," he says. "It's an easy life."

But Mr. Dang acknowledges he has no Uighur friends and says none of his pals would dare date a local woman, partly for fear they would need to convert to Islam and give up eating pork.

Mr. Dang has a hard time convincing others that he has made the right decision to live in Kashgar, including his worried parents. The one time his girlfriend came to visit, she wasn't impressed.

Asked to explain what he enjoys most about Kashgar, Mr. Dang suggests he is having trouble convincing himself, too. "There is no best thing," he says.