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In Washington, State Department spokesman Gonzales Gallegos condemned the attack, saying the United States was "saddened at the loss of life and injuries caused by the attack and extend our condolences to the victims and their families."
U.S.-based Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer urged Beijing to "refrain from using this incident to crack down further upon peaceful Uighurs," according to a statement from the Uighur American Association. Kadeer was recently among a group of prominent Chinese activists who met U.S. President George W. Bush.
"We condemn all acts of violence. The Uyghur people do not support acts that engender bloodshed," she was quoted as saying.
Monday's attack was all the more surprising because it follows years of intensive security measures in Xinjiang. A wave of violence in the 1990s mainly targeted police, officials and Uighurs seen as collaborators. Separatists also staged nearly simultaneous explosions on three public buses in the provincial capital of Urumqi.
In response, the government stationed more paramilitary units in the region and shut unregistered mosques and religious schools seen as hotbeds of anti-government extremism.
Uighurs, however, complain that restrictions on religious practice -- students are not allowed to go to mosques, for example -- and a high police presence has further alienated people who already felt displaced by an influx of Chinese migrants they feel are taking the best jobs.
"In practice, Uighurs have lost all political rights," Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based pro-independence World Uighur Congress, said in an e-mail. "Especially in the vast countryside heavily populated by Uighurs, the Chinese government has rolled out a political movement without end or reason that is unbearable to the Uighur peasantry. The entire Uighur people live in a blanket state of fear."
For the government, the security clampdown has largely succeeded in suppressing attacks, allowing security forces to disrupt plots before they are carried out, sometimes in violent raids. Li, the counterterrorism expert, said one raid recently broke up a terrorist cell in Xi'an, a city in central China. Police also shot and killed five people in an alleged cell in Urumqi last month.
Initial reports indicated Monday's attack was carried out by separatists based in Xinjiang and not Uighurs from across the border, some of whom have received training from al-Qaida and Pakistan's Taliban, said Li, who works at China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, a think-tank with ties to the government's main spy agency.
"This time they actually managed to carry out their plan, but it will not affect the Olympics greatly," said Li. "The threat from East Turkestan forces exist, but their capabilities are limited."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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