China holds anti-terror drill at Xinjiang airport

BEIJING (AFP) - Authorities in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang held an anti-terror drill on Thursday at its main airport, state media reported, simulating an attack by axe-wielding assailants.

About 200 people and 16 vehicles participated in the exercise to test how emergency responders dealt with a possible assault by four groups attacking people with axes, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The drill took place at the Urumqi Diwopu International Airport in the Xinjiang capital city of Urumqi, the report said, with the purpose to ensure that such an emergency could be brought under control quickly.

"If a terror attack occurs, airport forces will deal with mobs within three minutes after receiving information and quickly take emergency rescue measures to guarantee the safety of people's lives with the fullest efforts," said airport official Hua Guangrong, according to Xinhua.

Xinjiang, home to China's mainly Muslim Uighur minority, has experienced sporadic violence blamed by authorities on Islamist separatists, and which has sometimes spread to other regions of the country.

In March 2014, 31 people were knifed to death at a train station in the city of Kunming in southwestern China, with four attackers killed, in bloodshed authorities blamed on alleged separatists from Xinjiang seeking independence for the region.

Earlier this month, police in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang killed what were described as three knife-wielding "terrorists" from Xinjiang who attacked officers.

Rights groups say that harsh police treatment of Uighurs and government campaigns against religious practices, such as the wearing of veils, is a key factor behind such violence.

The Urumqi airport, which handles international flights to central and western Asia as well as Europe, processed a total of 16 million passengers last year, Xinhua said.

The report also said that as of May this year police had broken up a total of 181 "terror groups" in a crackdown that followed a deadly bombing at an Urumqi market in May 2014 which killed more than three dozen people.