KASHGAR, China (AP) — Police in far western China shot dead two suspects sought for their alleged involvement in a deadly attack blamed on Muslim extremists trained in Pakistan, the government said.
The pair, identified as 29-year-old Memtieli Tiliwaldi and 34-year-old Turson Hasan, were discovered late Monday hiding in corn fields in a suburb of the Silk Road city of Kashgar, where a pair of weekend attacks killed a total of 20 people, according to a notice posted on the Xinjiang regional government website.
Police had issued arrest warrants and a reward of 100,000 yuan ($15,400) for information leading to their arrests.
Authorities blamed militants trained in weapons and bomb making at camps in Pakistan run by the East Turkistan Islamic movement for Sunday's attack that left 11 dead, including seven suspected assailants. China says the group is allied with al-Qaida.
The Kashgar government said a "group of armed terrorists" had stormed a restaurant and killed the owner and a waiter before setting fire to the building. The suspects then ran out into the street and stabbed civilians at random, killing another four people and wounding 12, the city said. Police fired at the suspects, killing four on the scene while a fifth died later in a hospital.
Authorities have not pinpointed suspects behind clashes Saturday in the city that killed seven, including one of two men who allegedly hijacked a truck and rammed it into a crowd.
The weekend violence significantly boosted tensions across Xinjiang, where security has been tightened since 2009 when almost 200 people were killed in fighting between majority Han Chinese and members of Xinjiang's native Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group.
Overseas activists feared the government could respond by cracking down further on Uighurs, who already face heavy restrictions on religious and cultural expression.
Pakistan, a key ally to China, condemned the violence and offered support in combating the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. A Foreign Ministry statement said it was "fully confident" the people of Xinjiang autonomous region and the Chinese government "will succeed in frustrating evil designs of the terrorists, extremists and separatists, who constitute an evil force."
The Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang held an emergency meeting in Urumqi after the attacks and ordered a crackdown on religious extremism and "illegal religious activities," the official Xinhua News Agency said.
"People in Xinjiang should stay vigilant and recognize that terrorist attackers are the 'common enemies of all ethnic groups,'" Zhang Chunxian was quoted as saying.
A statement issued by the Washington D.C.-based Uyghur American Association said recent unrest had "punctuated an atmosphere of fear, repression and conflict" in Xinjiang, and said it feared Uighurs suspected of involvement in the violence could be subject to torture and arbitrary detention.
Pervasive fear and hopelessness had pushed some Uighurs to "extreme desperation," the group's president Alim Seytoff said in the statement.
"The Chinese government must take responsibility for creating this climate of fear, and must take steps to end its brutality against Uyghurs in order to create peace in the region," Seytoff said.
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 security 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 every day."
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.
Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen contributed to this report from Beijing.