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Officials Blame Uighur Muslims for Attack That Killed 16 Chinese Police

Chinese state media say two men from a mainly Muslim ethnic group were responsible for an attack Monday that left 16 police officers dead, four days ahead the opening of the Beijing Olympics.

China's official Xinhua news agency says the two Uighur men drove a dump truck into a group of jogging policemen early Monday in the city of Kashgar. The report says the attackers threw two home-made explosives at a nearby police station and hacked at officers with knives.

Xinhua says the men, ages 28 and 33 years old, were later arrested. No civilians were hurt.

The United States strongly condemned the attack. A State Department spokesman, Gonzalo Gallegos, said the U.S. extends condolences to the victims and their families and is saddened by the loss of life.

Prominent Uighur dissident Rebiya Kadeer also issued a statement condemning all acts of violence. The U.S.-based activist urged Chinese authorities to refrain from using Monday's attack to justify a crackdown on peaceful Uighurs.

Kadeer was one of five Chinese human rights activists who met last week with U.S. President George Bush at the White House.

There has been no official claim of responsibility for Monday's attack in Xinjiang, a northwestern region that is home to a large Muslim Uighur population.

Chinese state media linked the attack to an alleged plot by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a group dedicated to gaining independence for Xinjiang. Chinese authorities say the group has been planning to launch attacks in the days before the Olympics.

Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang have been waging a low-level rebellion against Chinese rule for years. Human rights groups and Uighur groups in the West say Chinese authorities often use terrorism as a pretext to persecute the country's Muslim minority.

In the run-up to the Olympics, security has been tightened in the region. Chinese authorities say they have broken up at least two Xinjiang-based terror plots this year and say terrorism is the biggest security threat to the Summer Games.

Late last month, a little-known Uighur separatist group said it was behind bus bombings that killed two people in Yunnan's Kunming city. Chinese authorities have dismissed the claim.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.