Chinese police shot dead four Uyghur men after raiding what they said was a bomb-making operation at a farmhouse near Korla city in China’s troubled northwestern Xinjiang region, according to city police officers Friday.
The pre-dawn raid in Towurchi village near Korla city in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region's Bayin'gholin prefecture on Thursday was part of the Chinese government's "strike hard" anti-crime campaigns and "stability drive" as the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's parliament, convened in Beijing for its annual session this week.
The raid was staged after a man was injured while making a bomb at his home, raising suspicions, the police officers said.
Police believed the man was linked to a group suspected of planning an attack in Xinjiang, which has been gripped by persistent ethnic tensions between the Muslim Uyghurs and the rapidly growing Han Chinese migrant population and where Beijing says its primary terrorism threat comes from.
Based on information extracted from interrogations on 21 suspects who were rounded up, police raided the farmhouse, killing one wanted man, identified as Nesrullah, aged 21, among them, they said.
Korla City Police Bureau Detective Office Chief Wu San and an officer on duty, Xiao Jing, confirmed the events that led to the bloody incident, the latest in Xinjiang since attacks in Kargilik (in Chinese, Yecheng) county in Kashgar prefecture last month killed 20.
The officer in charge of the raid told RFA that six armed policemen were involved initially in the raid but that they had to seek reinforcements after a police officer’s arms were chopped at by an assailant.
“We had located Nesrulla and his accomplice’s hiding place, which was a farmhouse in Towurchi village of Korla city,” said police officer Ghulamidin Yasin.
“When we rushed into the room, there were two women and eight children. We asked them where their men were and they told us they were not home, but we could see from their faces that they were deceiving us,” he said.
“We surrounded the storage room and were ready to rush in, when one man rushed out from the room holding an axe, and he chopped one of our policemen’s hands.”
When police discovered that there were several other men in the house, some of whom began throwing bottles at the raiding party, 40 more police officers were called in to surround the area, Yasin said. The men rushed out, carrying knives, and police shot them.
In addition to Nesrulla, those killed in the incident were identified as Nurmemet, 25, and Abdurehim and Abdulla, both over 30 years old. The men’s last names could not be immediately obtained.
“We found two bows, some bomb-making materials, and boxing gloves. It looks like they were preparing some sort of armed attack,” Yasin said.
He identified the man who was injured while making a bomb as Tohti Ibrahim.
Ibrahim "told the doctor that his gas tank had exploded at home, but the doctor didn’t believe him and immediately informed us,” Yasin said.
When police questioned him about the bomb, Ibrahim told them, “I do not acknowledge the law of China, and I am not willing to live under the Chinese regime, and I am willing to die. Don’t question me anymore, just kill me, I will tell you nothing. I was planning to act alone,” according to Yasin.
In the Kargilik violence last month, the government of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region said in a statement published on its official website that a group of Uyghurs stabbed to death 13 people before police shot dead seven of the attackers.
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.
Zhang Chunxian, secretary of the Xinjiang’s ruling Chinese Communist Party committee, said this week that the Kargilik incident, as well as other public violence that rocked the region last year, were related to outside forces.
"The infiltration of three overseas forces of separatists, extremists and terrorists, the social situation in nearby countries and international anti-terrorism activities may have directly or indirectly prompted such incidents," he said, on the sidelines China’s annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper.
Uyghurs complain of policies favoring Han Chinese migration into the region and unfair allocation of resources.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Translated by Dolkun Kamberi. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.