Clashes between police and a mob left dozens of people dead in China’s turbulent Xinjiang region, marking a new escalation of violence with the ethnic Uighur minority after a series of bomb attacks in recent months.
Authorities shot and killed dozens of people who had killed or wounded dozens of others in attacks on a police station and government offices on July 28, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The Uyghur American Association said 20 Uighurs were killed in what it called “excessive state violence” against people protesting a crackdown timed with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The violence may be the deadliest since a series of explosions in Xinjiang in May killed 31 people. Authorities have tightened security and stepped up police patrols amid discord between ethnic Han Chinese and Uighurs. China has started a yearlong campaign against violence in the western region, and President Xi Jinping pledged to “spare no effort” to maintain stability there.
The latest attack “is being handled in a proper way,” Vice Public Security Minister Huang Ming said at a briefing in Beijing today.
The violence was a premeditated terrorist act, Xinhua reported. The Uyghur American Association, citing unidentified local sources, said it suspected that the “dozens of individuals labeled as ‘thugs’ and killed by police were in fact victims of extrajudicial killings,” according to a statement on the association’s website.
Last month, Xinjiang law enforcement officers shot dead 13 people after a group rammed a truck into a police station and set off explosives, Xinhua reported on June 21. Shache, the site of this week’s violent clash, was previously assaulted on Dec. 30, when nine knife-wielding terrorists attacked a police station, throwing explosives and setting police cars on fire. Police shot and killed eight attackers.
Thirty-one cars were vandalized in the July 28 incident, six of them set on fire, Xinhua said. The assailants attacked civilians and smashed vehicles, the agency said.
The May blast in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi followed a knife attack at a train station where three people were killed and nearly 80 wounded. The government has blamed groups seeking an independent state for some of the incidents.