BEIJING: Eight “attackers” armed with knives and explosives were killed on Monday during an assault on a police station in China’s Xinjiang, according to authorities who have blamed “terrorists” for a string of deadly incidents in the largely Muslim region.
One of the attackers was held in the clash in Shache county, according to the official website of the government of Xinjiang, where mainly Muslim Uighurs are the largest ethnic group.
The website made no mention of any police casualties and said officials were conducting an investigation.
The area, around 200 kilometers southeast of Kashgar, is known as Yarkand in the Uighur language.
Authorities say that “terrorists” have been responsible for a series of similar attacks this year in the sprawling and resource-rich region.
Rights groups and outside scholars, however, say unrest is spawned by cultural oppression, intrusive security measures and a wave of immigration by China’s Han majority.
Xinjiang, a region more than four times the size of Japan, is rich in oil and natural gas.
Government economic policies aimed at developing the region have raised Uighur living standards, though Han dominance of the economy has helped foster continued resentment.
The latest violence came after 16 people, including two police officers, were killed in a clash near the Silk Road city of Kashgar earlier this month.
Authorities said that “thugs” armed with explosive devices and knives attacked police attempting to detain them, though exile group World Uyghur Congress described it as a “massacre” of a family preparing for a forthcoming wedding.
In October, police said three Xinjiang Uighurs drove a vehicle into crowds of tourists opposite Beijing’s Tiananmen Square—the symbolic heart of the Chinese state—killing two people and injuring 40, before crashing outside the Forbidden City and setting their vehicle ablaze.
All three attackers died.
Beijing described the assault, the first blamed on Uighurs outside Xinjiang, as “terrorism” and said separatists backed by the militant East Turkestan Islamic Movement were responsible.
More than 190 “terrorist” attacks were logged in Xinjiang last year, rising “by a significant margin” from 2011, state media reported last month.
Xinjiang has seen regular violent incidents this year, including one in June in the Turpan area that left 35 people dead.
Authorities have said that a total of 139 people have been arrested in recent months for spreading “jihadist” ideology.
China arrested more than 1,000 people for “endangering state security”—a charge commonly brought against ethnic minorities—in 2012, up nearly 20 percent from the previous year, the US-based Dui Hua Foundation said last month citing official figures.
More than 75 percent of trials for suspects accused of the crime took place in Xinjiang, it added.
In the worst outbreak of sectarian violence in recent years in China, around 200 people died and more than 1,600 were injured while hundreds were arrested in riots in the Xinjiang regional capital Urumqi in July 2009.