Chinese authorities on Saturday gunned down nine Uyghur youths who attacked a police station and bludgeoned to death two auxiliary policemen in the latest violence to rock China's restive northwestern Xinjiang region, according to security officials and eyewitnesses.
The raid occurred in Kashgar prefecture's Siriqbuya (in Chinese, Selibuya) township in Maralbeshi (Bachu) county, where 21 people were killed in clashes between Uyghurs and security forces in April.
The nine Uyghurs, armed with knives, swords and sickles, stormed into the Siriqbuya police station's guard post in the afternoon and killed two unarmed auxiliary policemen before attempting to advance to the main office, Siriqbuya police station chief Liu Cheng said.
"The rest of the police assistants fled to the main building of our station, where policemen armed with guns repulsed the attack," Liu Cheng told RFA's Uyghur Service.
"In the meantime, a SWAT team arrived and finished them all off," he said, explaining that forensic teams were examining the area around the 11 corpses as he was speaking on the phone. "Right now, the situation is under control."
Quoting police, China's official Xinhua news agency said that the attackers were armed with knives and axes and that two police officers were also injured alongside the two that were killed. The agency gave no further details.
Chinese media identified one of the attackers as Abla Ehet.
'Bodies lying on the ground'
Siriqbuya police station deputy chief Hesen Ablet told RFA separately that one of the two policemen killed was a Uyghur, identifying him as Yusup Abdukerim.
Ablet said that he was summoned to the station while he was on duty in a village and by the time he arrived at the scene, "there were already four or five bodies lying on the ground."
"The rest of the attackers were hiding behind the doors and pillars. I also hid behind a pillar and began shooting," Ablet said.
He said that the shootout attracted a large number of Uyghur residents, some of whom were angry with what they believed to be high-handed police action.
The residents pleaded with the police not to kill the young Uyghurs, saying they may have staged the attack because they were angry over the actions or policies of the Chinese authorities, eyewitnesses told RFA.
"There were around 40 to 50 people gathered around the station. They shouted to the police not to shoot, to capture them alive and try them," a Uyghur eywitness said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"They were young kids, my heart is broken to pieces," said another Uyghur eyewitness. "Why were they so merciless to their own citizens?"
"The police, if they really have to shoot them, should have shot them in their foot or arms but not the head, and should have captured them alive. They had the opportunity to do that," he said.
Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness in Xinjiang amid an influx of majority Han Chinese in the resource-rich region.
Chinese authorities often accuse Uyghurs of terrorist activities but experts familiar with the region have said Beijing has been exaggerating a terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest.
The attack on the police station came amid heightened tensions in Xinjiang following a Uyghur-driven car raid on Beijing's Tiananmen Square last month.
The government had blamed the Tiananmen attack on "terrorists" from Xinjiang but a former local official said the Uyghur who plowed his car into a crowded part of the highly sensitive site might have been angered by a police raid on a mosque in his hometown.
Xinjiang has seen a string of violent incidents in recent years as Beijing tightened security measures and extended house-to-house raids targeting Uyghur families.
In the April violence in Siriqbuya, one local government official was quoted saying that six of the 21 dead were Uyghur "terrorists" or "thugs." Xinhua said the other 15 killed were community officials—10 Uyghurs, three Han Chinese, and two Mongolians.
It was the worst violence in Xinjiang in four years.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.