Six ethnic majority Han Chinese farmers have been stabbed to death in the latest outbreak of violence in China's western Xinjiang region, police and local officials said.
Police shot dead an ethnic minority Uyghur man and captured three other Uyghur suspects following the incident last Wednesday in Uchturpan (in Chinese, Wushi) county in Aksu prefecture in mid-western Xinjiang, the officials said.
They did not say what triggered the bloodshed, which came as Chinese authorities pushed ahead with a relentless anti-terrorism crackdown following several high-profile attacks blamed on militants in Xinjiang, the homeland of the mostly Muslim Uyghurs.
A copy of a warrant of arrest was published online naming six suspects in the stabbing incident, which occurred in Uchturpan's No. 7 village in Imamlirim township on July 9. Their names all sounded Uyghur.
The Han Chinese victims were new to the village and had come from four relatively wealthy families who owned large plots of farms in the county, residents said.
"All the police stations in [Uchturpan] county are alarmed by the incident and have mobilized their resources to capture the [remaining three] suspects,” a police officer in neighboring Achitagh township—from where the suspects came—told RFA's Uyghur Service.
Ablajan Semet , chief of No.7 village, told RFA that the suspects went on the stabbing spree between 3 a.m, and 4 a.m.. They rode to the village in motorcycles and bolted in vans believed to have been stolen from the victims.
The six farmers were believed killed on the spot while a woman suffered stab wounds and was taken to hospital four to five hours after the bloody incident, he said.
Only three of the victims have been identified—Li Xiaofei, 45, Xiao Yu, 35, and Cheng Hai, 41.
“The three Han families emigrated to Uchturpan in 2005, and they became residents of our village since 2008 following the purchase of land which made them among the richest farmers in our village,” Semet said.
Alim Tohti, the chief of Imamlirim police station, said house-to-house checks have been launched in the township as an expansion of the investigations at the county and prefectural levels.
"According to the briefing I received so far, three of the seven suspects have been captured and one has been shot dead," he said.
The six suspects named in the arrest warrant are Ablikim Ablimit, 30, Abdurehim Abdulla, 20, Emetkari Mamut, 27, Eziz Jumak, 30, Tayir Eysa, 25, Yusup Kenji, 33.
Xinjiang is the traditional home of the Uyghurs who complain they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness.
Around 200 people have died in unrest in Xinjiang in the past year or so, the government says.
Last month authorities executed 13 people and sent more than 100 to jail on mostly terrorism-related offenses in Xinjiang.
Last week, courts in Xinjiang sentenced 32 people to prison, three of them for life, for terror charges stemming from downloading and spreading violent Internet content that authorities have blamed for inspiring violent attacks, state media said.
The other 29 people were handed sentences ranging from four to 15 years' imprisonment by seven courts in the region on Thursday, according to state broadcaster CCTV and the region's official newspaper, the Xinjiang Daily.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur Service. Translated by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.