China's crackdown in restive Xinjiang nets 400 suspects

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China has taken down more than 40 groups it calls "violent terror gangs" and arrested more than 400 people in its restive western region of Xinjiang since authorities began a crackdown in May, state media said on Monday.

The figures are the latest tally of China's efforts to rein in groups it says are responsible for a series of bloody attacks that Beijing blames on Islamists and separatists from the region, home to a large Muslim Uighur minority. "Among those cases, public security bureaus received clues from the public in 10 cases, leading to arrests of more than 100 people, the confiscation of a batch of explosive devices, raw materials and tools," the Legal Daily, run by the ruling Communist Party, said.

Numerous pieces of religious extremist multimedia propaganda were also confiscated, the newspaper said.

On May 23, authorities launched a one-year campaign targeting what they called "violent terrorist activities", which followed a suicide bombing that month that killed 39 people at a market in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi.

In March, 29 people were stabbed to death at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming. 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 an attack on a police station in June.

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

Xinjiang, resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of central Asia, is crucial to meeting China's growing energy needs. Analysts say that most of the proceeds have gone to the Han Chinese, stoking resentment among Uighurs. "China's political policies will lead to even more people facing unjust charges," Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled group the World Uyghur Congress, said in an email.

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