China detains 380 people in month-long Xinjiang terror sweep

Security forces participating in a military drill in Hetian, northwest China's Xinjiang region on June 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Security forces participating in a military drill in Hetian, northwest China's Xinjiang region on June 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Authorities in China's far-flung western region of Xinjiang have detained 380 people and busted 32 terror cells in a month-long crackdown on violence, state media said on Monday, following an upsurge in attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

China has been toughening its response after a spate of bloody incidents nationwide centred on Xinjiang, the traditional home of the Muslim Uighurs.

China has blamed previous attacks on Islamist separatists in the region, who, it says, want to establish an independent state there called East Turkestan.

The official Legal Daily said 315 people had been tried for terror-related offences, at least 13 of whom have been executed, an announcement made last week. Six police officers had died on the job as well, the report added.

Police also seized 264 explosive devices, 357 weapons, 101 computers with extremist contents on them and books and DVDs offering training at terror attacks, the newspaper said.

It gave instances of some cases, from the seizures of bows and arrows in the city of Aksu to the testing of bombs in the Gobi desert.

Authorities praised public support for the campaign, including reports about suspicious people, the paper said.

Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government's own repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, have provoked unrest, a claim Beijing denies.

Around 200 people have died in unrest in Xinjiang in the past year or so, the government says, including 13 people shot dead by police in a weekend attack on a police station.

China has tightened its grip on public discussion about Xinjiang too.

In January, police detained prominent Uighur economics professor Ilham Tohti and charged him with separatism.

Tohti, who taught at a university in Beijing, was known for championing the rights of the Uighurs.

His lawyer, Li Fangping, said last week that Tohti might already have been tried and sentenced in public.

This had not happened, however, Mr Li wrote on Monday on the Chinese mobile social network WeChat, adding that Tohti's case had only been handed over to the prosecutor, a necessary preliminary to a trial.

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