China Blames Pakistan-Trained Muslims for Attack in Xinijang Region

August 1, 2011 - 6:15 AM

China Violence

FILE - In this July 10, 2009 file photo, a military convoy passes a statue of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong in Kashgar, China. China on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 blamed Muslim extremists trained in Pakistan for an attack that killed six civilians in one of the most troubled ethnic regions where police later fatally shot five suspects. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel, File)

URUMQI, China (AP) — China on Monday blamed Muslim extremists trained in Pakistan for killing six civilians in an attack in its troubled far western ethnic region where police later fatally shot five suspects.

Sunday's attack raised the death toll to 18 from weekend violence in the Silk Road city of Kashgar. It is in Xinijang region, which has been tense since nearly 200 people were killed in fighting between Uighurs and Han Chinese in 2009 in Urumqi, the regional capital.

An overseas ethnic activist group said it feared the violence could prompt a new crackdown on minority Uighurs blamed for the previous violence.

Kashgar's city government said in a statement that an initial investigation showed members of the group behind Sunday's attack had trained in making explosives and firearms in neighboring Pakistan in camps belonging to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a banned militant organization advocating independence for Xinjiang.

The statement on the city government's website did not offer any proof. China says the group is allied with al-Qaida.

There was no immediate comment from Pakistan. It is unlikely the allegation will drive a wedge in relations between the countries, which are close political allies.

On Sunday, the "group of armed terrorists" stormed into a restaurant in the Kashgar city center, killing the owner and a waiter and setting the restaurant on fire, the city government said.

The attackers then ran out of the restaurant and stabbed civilians indiscriminately, leaving another four people dead and 12 injured, it said.

Police opened fire and shot dead four suspects at the scene, while another suspect died later in a hospital, it said.

Xinjiang has been beset by ethnic conflict and a sometimes-violent separatist movement by Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group that sees Xinjiang as its homeland. Many Uighurs say they have been marginalized as more majority Han Chinese move into the region.

The local government issued arrest warrants Monday for two local ethnic Uighurs who allegedly fled the scene and offered a 100,000 yuan ($16,000) reward for information leading to their capture.

Clashes in Kashgar on Saturday killed seven people and injured 22. A police official said two knife-wielding men hijacked a truck, rammed it into a crowd and got out attacking pedestrians.

People who came under attack retaliated, and one of the suspects was killed and the other caught, said the official from the Xinjiang regional public security bureau.

The official said the attack was under investigation and the motive unclear. She refused to give her name, as is common with Chinese officials.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the German-based World Uyghur Congress, which advocates nonviolence, said frustrations were forcing Uighurs to take to the streets.

"Uighurs have no peaceful way to oppose the Chinese government, so some have taken to extreme measures. It is unthinkable, but it is the reality, and Beijing should take responsibility to deal with these issues," he told The Associated Press from Sweden, where he is based.

China defends its treatment of minorities, saying all ethnic groups are treated equally and that tens of billions of dollars in investment and aid have dramatically raised living standards.

Police patrolled Kashgar on Monday, but locals said it was a sight to which they were accustomed. A security presence is usually strong in Xinjiang's main cities.

"I took a bus to work as usual this morning and saw police armed with rods patrolling on streets," said a woman at Hua'an International Travel Service, who only gave her surname, Zhao. "Seven or eight of them were in a group, but the police patrol the streets everyday. I didn't see there was a big difference today."

Xinjiang is China's Central Asian frontier, bordering Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia and other countries. Kashgar was an important hub on the ancient route through which Chinese silk and other goods reached Europe.

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Associated Press writer Louise Watt contributed to this report from Beijing.