West China Violence Kills 21 After Police Uncover Weapons Stash

The discovery of a stash of banned knives led to an outburst of violence in western China’s Xinjiang region that killed 21 people, including local officials and police, in what the government labeled a terrorist act.

The violence broke out after three officials visiting a home uncovered the weapons and called the police, Xinjiang’s government reported on its website. They were taken hostage and killed when authorities arrived and clashed with the suspects, it said.

Yesterday’s violence may stoke new tension in Xinjiang, where government policies encouraging majority Han Chinese to settle have led to ethnic strife. The region has seen sporadic violence in the four years since unrest in the Xinjiang city of Urumqi killed almost 200 people.

“The situation in Xinjiang is mainly stable but some people are trying to make troubles to interrupt peace and tranquility,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing today. “Their schemes are doomed to failure.”

Dilshat Rexit, a spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, said in an an e-mail that local reports indicate the violence was caused when a uniformed Chinese official shot and killed a Uighur youth.

Hua said the incident was “a case of violence and terrorism.” The dead included six suspects, and another eight were arrested, Hua said.

The incident took place in the western part of Xinjiang near the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, which is closer to the Iranian capital of Tehran than it is to Beijing. The central government in Beijing faces occasional challenges to its power from Uighurs, who make up less than half of Xinjiang’s population of about 22 million.

— With assistance by Michael Forsythe, and Henry Sanderson

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