Authorities in western Xinjiang have shot dead a Uyghur man they say stabbed a police officer to death and critically injured two others following a confrontation during a house search, marking the fourth deadly incident to hit the restive region in less than two weeks.
The incident occurred on June 30 in Atush city, seat of the Qizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture, near China’s border with Kyrgyzstan, sources said.
Also in the Atush region, on Thursday, police detained a Uyghur man in Azaq township in a separate raid. Details of the incident were unclear but witnesses said the man’s wife collapsed as he was led away by police and she later died in hospital.
The incidents add to the string of violence in Xinjiang since June 26, leaving at least 64 dead in total, as the region marked the fourth anniversary Friday of the July 5, 2009 violence between minority ethnic Muslim Uyghurs and majority Han Chinese.
The violence earlier this week in Atush city, broke out as police conducted a house-to-house search in the area, according to local police station chief Turghun Memet.
“It happened when the police were searching the rented home of a suspect in Qulupchining Doqisi [district],” the police chief told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“There was a husband and wife in the house and three police. When one of the police went out to answer a phone call, the suspect took a knife and killed one police officer on the spot and injured the other badly,” he said.
The police officer who had stepped outside to answer his phone reentered the home and shot the suspect dead, Turghun Memet said, without providing the name of the alleged knife attacker or his wife.
“Altogether two people died, including the suspect. One Chinese police officer was badly injured,” he said.
“The dead [police officer] was a SWAT team member and his name was Memet Nur—of Kyrgyz ethnicity.”
Turghun Memet did not provide information about why the suspect’s home was being searched and said that he had not been informed “from the top” about whether there had been any altercation between the suspect and police before the killings took place.
A police officer from nearby Kattaylaq township said that two policemen were injured during the attack, one of whom was a Uyghur, implying that the policeman who shot the suspect dead was also injured.
Another officer at the nearby Suntagh township police station confirmed that the incident had occurred in Atush city, but said that only his superiors were authorized to give details about casualties.
“The incident happened in the city, not in our jurisdiction, in a place called Qulupchining Doqisi,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.
“I cannot tell you how many were killed or injured. You have to ask our station chief.”
An official from the religious and civil affairs office in Atush said Memet Nur, the police officer who was killed in the confrontation, was from Aqchi county of the Qizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture.
“He graduated from the police academy and was working in the city’s SWAT unit,” the official said.
In the other incident, police detained a Uyghur man during a house search in Azaq township of the Atush region, according to a witness who lives nearby.
“Our neighbor Hebibe Yasin passed away in the hospital due to trauma she suffered when her husband was taken away from her in handcuffs,” the witness told RFA on condition of anonymity.
“She fainted on the spot [during the house search] and later died in the hospital,” he said, adding that area residents had conducted a funeral for the woman on Friday.
The cause of death was not immediately clear.
The neighbor did not say why police had decided to search the home.
Tension ahead of anniversary
Xinjiang on Friday marked the fourth anniversary of ethnic violence in the regional capital Urumqi amid military "anti-terrorism" exercises following a string of deadly clashes in recent weeks, local sources said.
Rioting in Urumqi left some 200 people dead and 1,700 injured in the days that followed July 5, 2009, according to official media reports.
In the first of the violent incidents in Xinjiang on June 26, the Xinhua state news agency said "knife-wielding mobs" attacked police stations and other sites in Lukchun township in Turpan prefecture before police opened fire, leaving 35 people dead, including the 10 attackers.
But local officials and residents told RFA the death toll in the Lukchun incident on June 26 was higher, at 46.
Two days later, in Hotan prefecture's Hanerik township, officials confirmed that police fired at hundreds of Uyghurs protesting the arrest of a young religious leader and closure of a mosque, acknowledging that up to 15 people may have been killed and 50 others injured.
On the same day, local officials said that at least three people were killed in separate violence in Tuanjie Square in Hotan city amid conflicting reports on the circumstances that led to the incident.
Chinese authorities blame outbreaks of violence in the region on Uyghur "terrorists," but rights groups and experts say Beijing exaggerates the terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against the Uyghur minority.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.