Four Uyghur men shot dead by Chinese authorities last week for suspected bomb-making in the restive northwestern Xinjiang region were prepared for their death and even had made their own funeral arrangements, according to police.
The men were gunned down in a pre-dawn raid at a farmhouse near Korla city in central Xinjiang on Thursday as part of the Chinese government's "strike hard" anti-crime campaign in the region.
Beijing considers Xinjiang a terrorism hotspot but the minority Uyghurs complain they are being discriminated against.
The four men, armed only with knives, knew they had no chance against the gun-toting police.
They gave farewell hugs to their wives and children and made their own funeral arrangements before confronting the pursuers, officers who supervised the operation said.
Six policemen were initially involved in the raid at the farmhouse near Korla city in the Bayin'gholin prefecture but they had to seek reinforcements after a police officer’s arms were chopped at by an assailant, they said.
"While we were waiting for additional forces to come from the county, we monitored the actions of the suspects from a window and we saw them performing the funeral ceremony for each other," Ghulamidin Yasin, the commander of the operation, told RFA.
The wives and eight children of two of the four men told police their husbands hugged and bid them farewell and herded them into a secluded room at the farmhouse before preparing for the police party to arrive.
Police said they were tipped off about the suspected bomb-making at the farmhouse after interviewing acquaintances of a man who was injured while making explosives a week earlier. But circumstances that led to the raid and the background of the Uyghur men could not be independently verified.
Seypidin, a senior security official at Korla city, said one woman told police that a neighbor had alerted the Uyghur men just before the raid.
"It was around three o'clock. Our neighbors knocked gently at our door," he quoted the woman as saying.
"My husband went out and after 10 minutes, he came back to our room and kissed our children one by one and hugged me and whispered, ‘This is my last hug, we will meet in another world. I have only one expectation from you—don’t show your tears to our children under any circumstance.'
"After that, my husband put us in another room—all women and children in the farmhouse were placed in one room.”
Syepidin said her statement "clearly proved that the suspects had prepared to fight with us and die."
The Uyghur men were shot dead as they charged at the police with their knives, according to the police officers.
Seypidin said some top officials had criticized the police operation because none of the suspects were captured alive.
Police identified the ringleader of the suspected bomb-making activity as Nesrulla, who they said moved to the farmhouse from Korla city after a warrant for his arrest was issued on March 5.
Nesrulla also moved his wife and their son to Hejing county two days before the shooting.
Police who monitored the wife's house in Hejing had detained 12 people who visited her.
The incident adds to tensions in Xinjiang, where Uyghurs complain of policies favoring Han Chinese migration into the region and the unfair allocation of resources to the Chinese.
Ten days earlier, 20 people were killed in attacks in Kargilik (in Chinese, Yecheng) county in Kashgar prefecture.
The government said that a group of Uyghurs had stabbed to death 13 people before police shot dead seven of the attackers in the violence.
Several residents of Kargilik county interviewed by RFA said the violence stemmed from a massive influx of Han Chinese, resulting in fewer economic opportunities for the Uyghur community.
The Chinese government has blamed the incident on separatists.
Ethnic violence left some 200 people dead in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi in 2009.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur service. Translated by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.