A clash at a checkpoint followed by a 48-hour manhunt this week left five people dead in Xinjiang region in northwestern China, local officials and police said on Friday.
Three Uyghur teenagers failed to stop at a security checkpoint on Wednesday in Keriye county (Yutian in Chinese) in Hotan prefecture (Hetian in Chinese) and then resisted police efforts to detain them.
The three security officials “chased them with a pickup truck and stopped them at a river valley and tried to take them to the police,” said Memet Turdi, village head of Yantaqkol village of Chira country (Cele in Chinese).
The three teenagers “refused to go to the police, saying that they were there to find valuable stones,” Turdi told RFA’s Uyghur service.
“When a policeman dragged one of them to the truck a dispute erupted between them,” he said. “Then the suspects killed all the personnel with knives.”
The three slain security officials, two auxiliary police and one security guard were unarmed, Turdi added.
Adil Alim, police chief of Lengger town of Keriye county told RFA that after the stabbing, Omer Abdugheni, 18, and Omer Memet, 17, fled to the village of Yenigkol in Lengger, while the third teenager ran to another village, called Layqa.
“I and four of my colleagues found the two in a courtyard, but they escaped to a field,” he said, referring to Abdugheni and Memet.
“At this time around 150 armed police and a SWAT team arrived and blocked their path,” Alim said. “They were surrounded. The police fired warning shot to convince them to surrender.”
He said a senior police officer surnamed Li shot one of the teenagers, and then a SWAT officer killed the other. The shootings took place on Thursday.
“This all happened in the two to three minutes after they were surrounded,” added Alim.
The third suspect, 16-year-old Meselim Metkerim, fled to the home of a relative in Layqa village, said Memet Qari, the village head.
Qari said the Metkerim told his relative that “he is in trouble, and if he is captured by the police he would not stay alive, and he asked for money from him to escape.”
“At this point there were warnings about them in all of Hoten, and people were mobilized to catch them, so his relative said that he would bring money, went outside, locked the door and went to inform the police,” said Qari.
Metkerim jumped out of the window of his relative’s house and went into hiding in a field, sleeping overnight in a farmer’s storage room, he said.
“But the farmer discovered him and informed the police them police captured him,” Qari said after the teenager was captured on Friday.
A teacher in Keriye told RFA he knew the three young men and their families and believed they ignored the checkpoint because they didn’t see the police there and then fled because they feared harsh treatment by police during a broad crackdown in Xinjiang.
“I believe this is the result of the current harsh policy,” said the teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“I think they did this to escape police brutality during the interrogation if they were taken to the station for the first time,” said the teacher, adding that they feared they would not be released even if they had missed the checkpoint by mistake.
Under the current crackdown in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region , the teacher said, “If you are sentenced for ‘political reasons,’ that means you will be rotting in jail.”
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written by Paul Eckert.