China has been toughening its response to violent crime after a
spate of attacks around the country, centred on Xinjiang, the
traditional home of Muslim Uighurs.
China has blamed previous attacks on Islamist separatists in the
region, who they say are looking to establish an independent state
there called East Turkestan. It was not immediately clear who was
responsible for Saturday's violence.
"The gangsters drove a truck to ram the building of the public
security bureau of Yecheng County in southern Xinjiang and set off
explosives. Police shot and killed 13 attackers at the scene,"
Xinhua said, adding that three police were slightly wounded.
In 2012, seven attackers were shot dead after killing 13 people in a
knife attack in Yecheng, also known by its Uighur name of Kargilik,
a remote town on the road leading to China's mountainous border with
China has been on edge since a suicide bombing last month 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.
The rise in violence has prompted a crackdown on violent crime.
Authorities in Xinjiang have arrested dozens of suspects in recent
weeks for spreading extremist propaganda, possessing banned weapons
and other crimes.
China also executed over a dozen people for terrorist attacks in the
region earlier this month and three for an attack on Beijing's
central Tiananmen Square.
Resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of central
Asia, Xinjiang has been plagued by violence for years, but exiled
Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government's own
repressive policies in Xinjiang have provoked unrest, something
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"The crackdown against the Uighur population is making it hard for
people to bear," Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur
Congress, the largest group of exiled Uighurs, told Reuters by
"Opening fire and killing those resisting, and accusing them of
terrorism while skirting the root causes, this will only lead to the
situation in the region becoming worse."
President Xi Jinping said earlier this year that the Kashgar region,
which sits in the far west of Xinjiang, was "the front line in
anti-terrorism". The Silk Road city of Kashgar has been at the
centre of much of the unrest. Yecheng is in the Kashgar prefecture,
and is more than 1,500 km southwest of Urumqi.
Chinese leaders have also been directing investment into Xinjiang.
Xi pledged last month to alleviate poverty and improve ethnic unity
in the region, the most direct indication yet that China's leaders
want to address the causes of violence.
(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in
BEIJING; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Nick Macfie)
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