Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Gang-Related Clash in Xinjiang Is Said to Kill at Least 21 ; Government Official Blames Ethnic Uighurs for Attack on Security

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Gang-Related Clash in Xinjiang Is Said to Kill at Least 21 ; Government Official Blames Ethnic Uighurs for Attack on Security

Article excerpt

The death toll from clashes between security officers and a gang said to be mostly Uighurs was the highest reported in violence in the region of Xinjiang in many months.

At least 21 people have been killed in fighting in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang between security officers and a gang that had hoarded long knives in a house, according to a propaganda bureau official for the regional government.

Six of those killed Tuesday were gang members, and eight more people in the gang were detained during the violence, according to the official and a report Wednesday on a regional news Web site, Tianshan. The other 15 killed were police officers and community watch workers or volunteers. They died after the large gang herded them at knifepoint into a house and set the building on fire, said the propaganda official, who gave only her surname, Ms. Hou.

The death toll was the highest reported in violence in Xinjiang in many months. Xinjiang is a vast frontier region that encompasses a wide range of ethnicities and landscapes, and violence flares on occasion in the regional capital, Urumqi, or along a belt of southern oasis towns that are inhabited mostly by Uighurs, a Turkic- speaking people who often complain of discrimination by the Han, the dominant ethnic group in China. Sometimes the violence is clearly rooted in ethnic conflict, and other times it involves criminal gangs or attacks by individuals or groups against state organizations.

Ms. Hou said all 14 of the assailants were of Uighur ethnicity, most of them from a village administered by the township of Selibuya. She said they had been influenced by "religious extremism" and had been plotting a "jihad" since the end of last year, though there was no evidence they were working with foreign forces.

Uighurs generally practice Sunni Islam, and Uighur exiles often criticize Chinese officials for saying violence in Xinjiang arises from religious extremism. In the past, officials in Xinjiang and Beijing have tried to blame some acts of violence in the region on a shadowy group called the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, though several foreign scholars say the officials have presented little evidence to support their claims. …

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