China police kill 28 'terrorists' in Xinjiang

Sept 18 attack officially cited as Beijing slams West's 'double standards' in wake of Paris hits

BEIJING • The police in China have killed 28 members of a "terrorist group" in the mainly Muslim Xinjiang region, the authorities announced yesterday, in the bloodiest such operation in months and as Beijing denounces Western "double standards" in the wake of the Paris attacks.

The news, carried by the official Xinjiang Daily, was the first official mention of the Sept 18 attack at the Sogan colliery in Aksu. It said 16 people, including five police officers, were killed, and a further 18 people injured.

Radio Free Asia, which first reported the incident about two months ago, said at least 50 people had died.

The attackers fled into the mountains, and the authorities launched a manhunt with more than 10,000 personnel participating every day, forming an "inescapable dragnet", the Xinjiang Daily said.

Xinjiang is the homeland of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, many of whom complain of discrimination and controls on their culture and religion. The region is often hit by deadly unrest.

The assault on the colliery was "a violent terrorist attack under the direct command of an overseas extremist" group, said the Xinjiang government's portal.

The official Xinhua news agency, citing a Xinjiang government statement, identified the attack leaders as Musa Tohniyaz and Mamat Aysa, both apparently Uighur names.

Radio Free Asia, which is funded by the United States government, cited government and local sources as saying 17 suspects, including seven women and children - among them a one-year-old and a six-year-old - had been killed by the authorities.

Beijing regularly accuses what it says are exiled Uighur separatist groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement of being behind attacks in Xinjiang, which has seen a wave of deadly unrest.

But overseas experts doubt the strength of the groups and their links to global terrorism, with some saying China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security measures in the resource-rich region.

Beijing has slammed Western countries for applying "double standards" on terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks that left at least 129 people dead.

"China is a victim of terrorism," Xinhua said in a commentary late on Thursday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'China police kill 28 'terrorists' in Xinjiang'. Print Edition | Subscribe