Riot toll rises to 35 in Xinjiang

By Lin Meilian in Shanshan and Yang Jingjie in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2013-6-28 1:18:01

The death toll from a riot in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Thursday rose to 35, including 11 attackers, as the region beefed up security following the deadly violence.

The attack took place at around 5:50 am Wednesday in the township of Lukqun, Shanshan county, which is administered by Turpan in eastern Xinjiang.

Earlier reports put the death toll at 27. However, Xinhua Thursday said thugs killed 24 people, among which 16 were Uyghurs and two were police officers, and injured another 21 police officers and civilians. Police shot dead 11 attackers and caught four at the scene.

A Xinjiang official on the ground Thursday confirmed the increased death toll to the Global Times on condition of anonymity, saying some people died of wounds on Thursday.

According to the official, the authorities are handling the aftermath of the violence and assisting the families of victims.

Lukqun has been cordoned off since the attack, and all vehicles entering and leaving the town are subject to searches in an attempt to track down those still at large. A Global Times reporter was unable to enter Lukqun but remained at the county seat of Shanshan, around 30 kilometers away.

The Xinjiang official said police had set up several roadblocks between the county seat and Lukqun, and had seized several suspects on Thursday morning. The previous day, police apprehended about nine suspects, most of whom are aged 18 or 19, including Lukqun locals.

The attackers Wednesday set fire to a government building, a local police station, a nearby construction site and more than 10 government vehicles, and stabbed both police officers and civilians indiscriminately.

According to the official, the attackers were mostly Uyghurs and mainly targeted Uyghur police officers. The Han victims were all migrant workers at a construction site.

The regional government has been preparing for emergencies during the countdown to the four-year anniversary of riots in Urumqi, which led to the deaths of 197 people on July 5, 2009. However, the official acknowledged that the violence in Lukqun came as a surprise, as no such riots had previously taken place in the well-known tourist region.

In other parts of Xinjiang, the authorities have also beefed up security measures.

A tourist surnamed Li told the Global Times Thursday that at the highway exit to Changji, a city some 36 kilometers northwest of Urumqi, there were many armed police and special police officers holding guns, in addition there were many police vehicles. In the city, police vehicles were parked at intervals along the roads, with police officers patrolling nearby.

Responding to a question on the violence, US State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell Wednesday said the US "remain deeply concerned by the ongoing reports of discrimination and restrictions against Uyghurs and Muslims in China."

China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying Thursday told the Global Times the ministry had noticed the statement by Ventrell.

"The Chinese government protects all the rights, including the freedom of religious beliefs by people of all ethnic groups in accordance with  the law. We resolutely oppose the arbitrary US accusation regarding China's ethnic and religious policies," Hua said.

Xinjiang has witnessed a number of terrorist attacks in recent years.

In April, a group of terrorists in Bachu county, southern Xinjiang's Kashi were found making explosives and they confronted with police and community workers, which led to 21 deaths including six terrorists.

The Xinjiang official told the Global Times that authorities believe the gang had been planning to launch attacks at a commodity fair in Kashi this Friday, which will be attended by foreign merchants from Central and South Asia.

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