Three Police Officers Are Added to Death Toll in Operation Following Xinjiang Coal Mine Attack

2016-01-14
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Paramilitary police officers guard a shopping mall in Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture, China, April 16, 2015.
AFP

Three police officers have been added to a list of security personnel known to have been killed during an operation in November in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, bringing the reported total to nine, according to a Chinese police social media posting obtained by RFA’s Uyghur Service.

The officers, including two Han Chinese officers and one ethnic Uyghur auxiliary policeman, were killed while attempting to apprehend suspects in a fatal knife attack on guards and workers at a coal mine in Aksu (in Chinese, Akesu) prefecture’s Bay (Baicheng) county.

Some 50 mostly majority Han Chinese were killed in the Sept. 18  incident—including at least four police officers and a police chief—and around 50 others injured.

In late November, Chinese official media reported that police had killed 28 members of a “terrorist group” following a two-month manhunt for suspects in the attack.  

Local sources said the suspects, who were tracked down in a group that included women and children, were members of five or six Uyghur families who lived in the area.

Three added to list

State media had previously said that five officers were killed in the September attack, with another officer—Memet Toxtiniyaz, an ethnic Uyghur—later reported killed in November in what authorities described as an attempt to rescue herdsmen taken hostage by suspects in the September attack.

A police chat group on the popular WeChat social media platform has now identified a total of nine officers killed in both incidents, describing those killed as “revolutionary martyrs” and hailing their “bravery and contributions to state and public security.”

In addition to Memet Toxtiniyaz, whose name had previously been reported in state media, five others—Wufeng, Hong Jianwen, Zayir Kurban, Ekber Osman, and Ilyas Tohti—were named in the WeChat post, confirming identities provided earlier to RFA by sources in the region.

Three additional officers listed—Xiao Keyun, Luo Tianyong, and Yakup Yasin—had not previously been reported by any source to have been killed.

Official sources’ previous failure to reveal the deaths of other officers killed in November shows “that a lot of things have gone unreported about the Bay [county] incident,” Memet Tohti, a Uyghur living Canada, told RFA.

“Among these, the most important has been the fate of the Uyghur women and children” believed killed in the pursuit of the suspects in November, he said.

Heavy-handed rule

China has vowed to crack down on what it calls the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism in Xinjiang, but experts outside China say that Beijing has exaggerated the threat of Uyghur “separatists” and that domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence that has left hundreds dead since 2012.

Rights groups accuse the Chinese authorities of heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, including violent police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people.

Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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