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November 17, 2013 7:36 am
China’s restive northwestern province of Xinjiang was hit by more violence at the weekend, when 11 people died in an attack on a police station in the same area where 21 died in clashes between ethnic Uighurs and police earlier this year, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Xinhua said two auxiliary police officers were killed when nine people armed with knives and axes attacked a police station in Selibuya township in Bachu county, in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, the same area where serious violence broke out in April.
The nine assailants were shot dead, and two other policemen were injured, the report said. Independent confirmation of the report was not available, with the popular microblogging site Sina Weibo silent on the issue – usually a sign that posts are being blocked.
China’s westernmost province, which holds a significant portion of the country’s oil and gas reserves, has been shaken by increasingly frequent violent unrest in recent years.
The Uighurs, a Turkic people whose majority are Muslims, used to dominate Xinjiang, but the ethnic group is on the verge of being outnumbered by Han Chinese following many years of government-encouraged migration.
Radio Free Asia reported that the nine men, all Uighurs, stormed a guard post of the Selibuya police station, killing two unarmed auxiliary policemen. RFA’s Uighur service quoted police station chief Liu Cheng saying they were later killed by a special operations team. He told RFA that the situation had since returned to normal.
The radio reported that residents pleaded with the police not to kill the attackers: “They were about 40 to 50 people gathered around the station. They shouted to the police not to shoot, capture them alive and try them,” RFA quoted an unnamed Uighur witness as saying.
A large-scale violent incident broke out in the same township, Selibuya, in April. Then, 21 people were killed in clashes involving axes, knives and the burning down of a house. Nine officials, six police officers and six ethnic Uighurs were left dead.
The authorities branded the April violence a “terrorist” attack, saying the assailants were “jihadists” plotting violence in the region,
In July 2009, at least 197 people were killed in ethnic riots in Urumqi when an Uighur mob turned against Han residents. Han mobs later paraded the streets seeking revenge.
Beijing has also arrested several Uighurs in connection with the October 28 crash of a sport utility vehicle into a crowd at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing the car’s three occupants and two bystanders. The government called the incident a terrorist attack.
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