Eight dead after knife attack in Xinjiang

BEIJING • Three knife-wielding attackers killed five people and injured another five in China's far western region of Xinjiang before police killed the "thugs", local authorities said, in the latest bout of violence on China's border with Central Asia.

The attack took place on Tuesday evening in Pishan county, in the restive southern part of Xinjiang, the government of Hotan prefecture said in a short statement on its website early yesterday.

"At present, social order is normal at the site, society is stable, and investigation work is under way," it said, without giving further details about the attackers or their motive.

Hundreds have been killed in recent years in resource-rich Xinjiang, in violence between members of the ethnic Uighur minority and the majority Han Chinese.

The vast region is the homeland of the Uighurs, a traditionally Muslim group, many of whom complain of cultural and religious repression and discrimination.

Beijing regularly accuses what it calls exiled Uighur separatist groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement of orchestrating attacks in Xinjiang.

But overseas experts have expressed doubts about the strength of the groups and their links to global terrorism, with some saying that China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security measures.

Mr Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, told Agence France-Presse that police had arrested six people after the attack, including two young Uighurs who shared information about the incident over social media.

"Armed forces in the county are targeting Uighurs for investigation and demanding that Chinese people avoid leaving their homes," he said, citing his sources in Xinjiang.

"I am worried the case will provide China with a new political excuse for repression and will cause more people to face discriminatory inspections or detentions."

Last month, police killed three "rioters" following a manhunt for suspected members of a "violent terror group" linked to a 2015 attack in Pishan, according to the regional government's website.

Weeks earlier, state media had reported that three attackers were shot dead after detonating an explosive device at a local party office in Moyu county, killing two and injuring three.

In November 2015, police killed 28 members of a "terrorist group" over the course of a 56-day manhunt, following an attack on a colliery in Aksu two months earlier, which left 16 people dead.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'Eight dead after knife attack in Xinjiang'. Print Edition | Subscribe