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China Says 50 Dead in Xinjiang Violence

  • VOA News

FILE - Paramilitary policemen with shields and batons patrol near the People's Square in Urumqi, China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.

FILE - Paramilitary policemen with shields and batons patrol near the People's Square in Urumqi, China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Chinese state media now say 50 people were killed during recent unrest in the violence-ridden, far-west region of Xinjiang. Previously, officials said only two people died in last Sunday's violence in Luntai County, southwest of the region's capital, Urumqi.

The Tianshan news portal provided more details Friday, saying bombs exploded at two police stations and two stores, killing four police officers and six civilians.

The report said police responded "decisively," opening fire on a number of people described as "rioters." At least 40 people were killed in the ensuing violence, while 54 people were wounded.

The unrest was described as a terrorist attack organized by Mamat Tursun, who was shot dead. Police say he had been operating as an extremist since 2003.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Such violence has killed at least 300 people in the last 18 months in Xinjiang, where there are rising tensions between ethnic Uighurs, Han Chinese and authorities.

China says it is fighting foreign-backed jihadists trying to form a separate state in Xinjiang. Many Uighurs, most of whom are Muslim, say the violence is sparked by China's mistreatment of their ethnic group.

This week China sentenced a prominent Uighur scholar, Ilham Tohti, to life in prison, saying he encouraged violence and pushed for and independent state in Xinjiang.

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at a Beijing university, rejected the charges, saying he was only pointing out China's mistreatment of the Uighurs.

China has tightly restricted Muslim religious life and traditional culture in Xinjiang. Many Uighurs say they are discriminated against in favor of the Han.

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