A wide-ranging police search for an ethnic Uyghur security chief kidnapped by a group of Uyghurs in an area known for violence between the ethnic group and Han Chinese in China’s restive, far-western Xinjiang region has so far yielded no clues, local police said.
Imin Memtimin, 41, who has played an active role in police operations in Sadiqawat village of Baghchi township in Hotan county, was kidnapped from his home on the morning of March 9.
Police have been conducting raids of homes in the village in hopes of determining the identities of the kidnappers and finding Memtimin, who served as a police officer from 2010 to 2012 and was later promoted to Sadiqawat’s security chief.
“The investigation teams from the county and prefectural levels have been stationed in the village,” a police officer at the Baghchi township police station told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
Hotan (Hetian in Chinese) prefecture in southwestern part of Xinjiang has been rife with stabbing and shooting incidents between ethnic, mostly Muslim Uyghurs and Chinese security forces, with attacks coming amid a string of assaults and bombings across the region, formally called the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Adil Ismayil, deputy chief of Hotan country’s Public Security Department, who is leading an investigation team of seven officers in conducting the raids, told RFA that the operation is still underway in the prefecture, but his authority was limited in terms of disclosing information about the case.
Four kidnappers wearing black masks over their faces and carrying sticks entered Memtimin’s house at 2 a.m. on March 9, said Memtimin Tursuntohti, a police officer in Sadiqawat village.
The kidnappers, who may also have had knives, told Memtimin to be silent and come with them, he said.
“They allowed him to wear his clothes, then took him without touching anything in the house,” he said. “They pushed his wife away while she was asking, ‘Who you are? Where are you taking him to?’”
Kidnappers were Uyghurs
At first, Memtimin’s wife thought that police were taking away her husband for presumably doing something wrong at work, but she became aware that the men were kidnappers when she saw the sticks in their hands instead of guns, Tursuntohti said.
The kidnappers told Memtimin’s wife, who later relayed the information to police, to take care of herself and her children, but she fainted from the scare, Tursuntohti said.
“According this information, we know that the kidnappers were Uyghur, but still we don’t know further information about their identities,” he said, adding that the prefectural-level investigation team might know more about the incident because they came to the scene with technical equipment.
“So far, we’ve interrogated more than 1,000 people and detained more than 200 as suspects,” in Sadiqawat village, Tursuntohti said, adding that he did not know how many people had been detained in other villages and counties.
“It is clear for me that the whereabouts of our security chief Imin Memtimin are still unknown,” he said.
Azat Mijit, chief of Sadiqawat village, said the village had remained free of any violent incidents, although some residents had heard of such incidents occurring elsewhere.
“That is why we are in a weak position in terms of collaborating with the police investigation,” he said. “No home has been skipped during the raids in my village, but still we have no valuable information about the kidnappers and the whereabouts of the security chief.”
Mijit said it was difficult for authorities higher up to keep news of the incident quiet so as not to encourage terrorists or scare off Han Chinese who live in the area.
“But they have been forced to disclose the incident given the circumstances of the investigation,” he said.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur of RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.