Members of a female police patrol team carry out vehicle inspection in Xinjiang’s Turpan amid high temperature on July 14, 2014. Photo: ts.cn
Xinjiang authorities revealed details of the Shache county terror attack on July 28 in a Saturday meeting chaired by its Party chief, putting the death toll at 96 and calling for a resolute crackdown to eradicate terrorists believed to be linked to overseas masterminds.
In one of the largest attacks since the July 5 riot in 2009, extremists in Shache, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region attacked civilians, police stations and government offices on July 28, authorities announced.
According to news portal ts.cn, a website administered by the Xinjiang government, police gunned down 59 terrorists and arrested 215 others in the attack on July 28 in Shache, Kashi prefecture.
A total of 37 civilians, including 35 ethnic Hans and two Uyghurs, were killed by terrorists in the attack. Thirteen were reportedly injured, the regional government said after a meeting on Saturday presided over by Zhang Chunxian, head of the regional committee of the Communist Party of China.
It was not reported whether the police had suffered any casualties.
The attack, which was preceded by a large-scale police crackdown in Hotan and followed by the brutal murder of a respected imam in Kashi, signals the fight against terrorism has reached a decisive stage, analysts said.
Xinjiang authorities said masked militants armed with knives and axes attacked police stations and government offices in Elixku township early on the morning of July 28 and were fought off by law enforcement.
The extremists also set up roadblocks at multiple sites on the Bachu-Shache road, stopping vehicles before slashing passengers indiscriminately and forcing civilians to join them in the terror attack, Xinhua reported.
Thirty-one vehicles were smashed and six were burned. Two government officials from a nearby township, who were Uyghur, were murdered after they allegedly criticized extremists for their terror activity.
Police have identified Nuramat Sawut from Elixku township as the mastermind behind the attack.
Sawut allegedly had close connections with the terrorist organization East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and had been spreading separatism and religious extremism thoughts through audio and video materials since 2013.
Xinjiang authorities said Sawut and his group had had multiple gatherings in remote places since the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during which they plotted the attack and prepared tools for their violent acts.
It was reported that police had confiscated jihad-themed banners along with machetes and axes during the attack.
"The scale of the incident is the largest in recent years in terms of the number of terrorists arrested. It shows that the conflicts between anti-terrorism forces and terrorists are becoming more fierce and confrontational as terrorists grew increasingly desperate," Pan Zhiping, director of the Institute of Central Asia at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
His opinion was echoed by Xu Jianying, a research fellow with the Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"We are still closely following the situation to see whether this attack is a turning point [in Xinjiang's anti-terrorism movement]," Xu said.
The Shache attack came a day after a police hunt in which some 30,000 residents in southern Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture joined police forces to locate terrorists, China Central Television reported on Saturday.
Nine terrorists were eventually gunned down and one was arrested.
It was reported that more than 70 local residents have provided tip-offs to facilitate the operation.
Authorities have offered 4.23 million yuan ($685,000) in cash rewards to those who helped hunt the terrorist group, Xinhua reported.
The Shache attack was also followed by the murder of Jume Tahir, the 74-year-old imam of Kashi's Id Kah Mosque, the largest mosque in Xinjiang, two days later.
Tahir had openly criticized terror activities and called for Muslims to stay away from extremist paths. Analysts believed that Tahir's murder was used to spread fear among Uyghur people and to isolate them from local government.