At least 18 people were killed after ethnic Uighurs attacked a police checkpoint in Xinjiang, Radio Free Asia reported, the deadliest incident documented in China’s far western region since at least September.
The knife-and-bomb attack occurred Monday in the city of Kashgar, the report said, as the Muslim minority group observes the holy month of Ramadan under tight restrictions on religious activities. The assailants killed police officers after speeding through the traffic checkpoint and were then killed themselves by police, the report said.
While the number of dead on either side of the clash was unclear and some of the casualties may include bystanders, RFA cited a district police officer as saying at least 18 were killed. That could make it the region’s deadliest incident since at least 50 were killed in attacks in September.
The violence is the latest in a series of attacks in the region and elsewhere in the country blamed by Chinese authorities on Uighur separatists. President Xi Jinping has overseen a nationwide crackdown against alleged Uighur terrorists, that led to several shootouts, mass arrests and a stadium trial at which people were sentenced to death.
A person at the Xinjiang regional press office hung up the phone when called for comment and two subsequent calls went unanswered. A person contacted at Tianshan Web, the region’s official news portal, denied any attack had taken place, and wouldn’t give a name.
In some parts of Xinjiang -- a region on the edge of Central Asia and almost as large as Alaska -- Uighurs risk fines or detention for wearing veils or growing beards and some are warned against observing Islam’s holiest month. Communist local authorities have “encouraged” party members, civil servants, teachers and students not to fast during Ramadan “for the sake of their health, work and study,” state media has reported. Uighurs account for almost half of Xinjiang’s 22 million inhabitants.
Chinese authorities announced last month that they had dismantled 181 “terrorist groups” in a yearlong crackdown after a bombing killed 39 people in the regional capital of Urumqi, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
— With assistance by Brendan Scott, and Zheng Wu