Chinese authorities announced Thursday that 50 people were killed in the latest violence in the restive Xinjiang region, revising sharply upwards its previous death toll of two in the weekend attacks on police stations and government buildings.
Chinese official media gave the new figures after RFA quoted local officials and eyewitnesses as saying that the death toll in the Sept. 21 bomb attacks by suspected Uyghurs in Bugur (in Chinese, Luntai) county in the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture was much higher than reported by the Xinjiang government.
Sources had told RFA’s Uyghur Service that at least 12 people, including three policemen and seven attackers, were killed and about 100 injured in the raids on the Bugur city center and the townships of Yengisar and Terekbazar.
Hours after the RFA report, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that the death toll had jumped to 50, adding to the hundreds who have perished in Xinjiang in attacks the past year.
Citing the Xinjiang government's Tianshan web portal, Xinhua said the fatalities comprised 40 “rioters,” who died in a series of explosions, and six civilians, two police officers and two auxiliary policemen.
Another two “rioters” were captured by the police, it said, adding that the explosions occurred at a shop, an open market and two police stations.
Xinhua added that 54 civilians were injured in the violence, calling it an "organized and serious" terrorist attack.
Local officials and witnesses had told RFA that 12 were killed during the bomb attack at a police station in Yengisar. The number of fatalities in Bugur and Terekbazar was not immediately known, they said.
The Bugur county hospital had been crammed with patients with serious injuries, a nurse said,
“I assume there are about 100 people with injuries because all the hospital beds are occupied right now,” the nurse said.
Among those undergoing treatment were up to 20 policemen, as well as one suspected attacker, she said.
Beijing has launched an anti-terror campaign to contain escalating violence blamed on Uyghur separatists in Xinjiang, where many Uyghurs complain of repression by the Chinese authorities.
They claim to have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness, saying an influx of majority Han Chinese threatens their culture and livelihood.
A curfew has been imposed in the affected areas hit by the latest violence, with schools and offices closed as of late Tuesday, according to Aklikim, the secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party branch in Bartoghraq village in Terekbazar.
Amangul Mollaq, the aunt of policeman Nijat Ehet, who was seriously injured in the raid on the police station in Yengisar, said he had gone to investigate an explosion when he was stabbed by one of the attackers.
“When he heard the explosion, he went to the site and saw the gate of the police station being ripped off by the blast and a group of people attacking the station from the front and back of the building,” she said.
“When my nephew was dispersing the crowd, one of the attackers stabbed him,” Mollaq said. “He was only able to convey a few details as his condition was severe.”
Police officers who visited him at the hospital told Mollaq that "three suspects who staged the attack on the police station from the front and three attackers who came from the back of the building were killed on the spot."
"I also heard that two policemen with the names Husenjan [Osman] and Ibrahim had been killed in action.”
Qadir Osman, a Communist Party cadre in Yengisar and whose brother, a restaurant owner, was among those killed in the attacks, said the township morgue was mobbed by relatives and friends of those who perished.
“The place was surrounded by police and there were about 100 people, some of whom were waiting to identify the bodies,” he said.
A teacher in Yengisar, who declined to be identified, told RFA he witnessed police cars, motorcycles, and a gas station being torched.
He said that he believed that the attackers, particularly in Bugur county center, were Uyghurs disgruntled by mass forced evictions to make way for the influx of Han Chinese.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur and Eset Sulaiman for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.