Police Killed in New Xinjiang Clash

Unarmed Uyghur police come under attack while searching for suspects in an August clash.

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XinjangUyghurUnrest305.jpg KASHGAR, Xinjiang, China: A Chinese policeman (R) watches as ethnic Uyghurs line the street for an official ceremony on August 7, 2008.
Photo: AFP
HONG KONG—Two ethnic Uyghur police officers have been killed and at least two critically injured in a new clash near the Silk Road city of Kashgar, according to authoritative sources and witnesses.

The two dead and wounded officers all belong to the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, according to police and the chief nurse at Peyzawat [in Chinese, Jiashi] county hospital. “All of them were stabbed,” the nurse said.

“Two of them died at the hospital today [Wednesday] and two of them have been sent to the Kashgar Prefecture Hospital because they were in critical condition.”

The nurse, who asked not to be named, said they were brought to the hospital after a clash in Qizilboy village, Peyzawat county.

“Six or seven people came out and attacked them with knives,” an officer who witnessed the attack said. “Two officers died at the scene—one was the [Misha] village police chief. Four others were wounded, and four of us escaped.”

A Peyzawat county government official, contacted by telephone, confirmed that all the victims had been hospitalized with knife wounds. “They all work for the government,” he said.

The Peyzawat county Public Security Bureau declined to comment in detail. “We have not received instructions as to what to say. You should call the command center. We are waiting to receive the specifics from them,” an officer on duty said.

Searching for suspect

The deputy Peyzawat county police chief, Omerjan, said in an interview that the police officers—all members of the Uyghur Muslim minority—were searching a cornfield following a tip that a woman suspected of aiding assailants in an earlier attack was hiding there.

“We didn’t expect to come under attack in that cornfield,” Omerjan said. “They [the police] didn’t carry any weapons. Now there are 500 armed Chinese troops searching house to house in the area. It has been almost nine hours, but we still haven’t found anyone.”

In August, assailants attacked a checkpoint in Yamanya town, in Yengisher [in Chinese, Shule] county, in which three guards were killed. Following the Yamanya attack, police arrested a Uyghur woman, Amangul, 50. On Wednesday, they were searching for her daughter, indentified as Anargul, 22, according to Omerjan, on suspicion that she aided the Yamanya assailants.

Seven people are sought in connection with the Yamanya attack. Police have identified five of those suspects as Abdurehim Ehet, Keyim Bawudun, Imam Hesen, Hesen Hoshur, and Abdusalam Sultan. Names of the remaining two were unavailable.

“After the Yamanya incident, we organized large public gatherings and asked people to help us find the suspects. We also said we would offer a 50,000-yuan reward to anyone who helped. But still nobody has come forward,” Omerjan said.

All of the officers were unarmed, the deputy police chief and the officer who took part in the search said. The officer added that Uyghur police are generally barred from carrying weapons.

Twenty of the 21 police working in the local police station are Uyghurs and one is Han Chinese, he said. The station owns only two firearms, both of which are locked in storage.

Officers recovering

On Friday, the new Misha village police chief, Mamet Ali, said the wounded officers were recovering in hospital but one had lost two fingers in the attack.

Anargul remained at large, Ali said, adding: “We have her eight-year-old son in custody. We also have Amangul [her mother] in custody… Anargul is a key person for us to arrest the others. That is why we have her son.”

Police have also detained two sons of cleric and community leader Abdul Shukur, Ali said. Shukur’s home is close to the cornfield where the clash erupted this week, and Shukur was already in custody at the time. His sons’ ages weren’t immediately available.

Another local official, the Misha village propaganda chief, said search operations were under way throughout Peyzawat, Yengisher, and Yupurgha [in Chinese, Yuepuhu] counties. “All the police and troops, government employees, and farmers are mobilized in the area under the leadership of the Kashgar governor, Akber Ghopur,” the propaganda chief said.
“In Misha village alone, about 2,000 people including 500 troops, 300 armed police, and 400 government employees and paramilitary” have been mobilized, he said, although no one has yet been detained.

Stepped-up campaign

Exiled Uyghurs meanwhile say authorities in the troubled Xinjiang region have stepped up a campaign to quell separatism among Uyghurs there, making numerous arrests and setting up checkpoints following the worst outbreak of violence there in a decade.

The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, citing communications from the town of Kucha in Xinjiang, said residents there have been barred from travelling outside their own county, with a half-dozen military checkpoints set up to prevent travel.

Kucha was the site of an Aug. 10 attack in which 15 ethnic Uyghurs staged attacks on prominent government buildings, killing a security guard and a civilian. Eight of the attackers were killed and two committed suicide.

Six days earlier, according to China’s official media, 16 police officers died when a group of Uyghurs attacked them with knives and homemade explosives.

No group has claimed responsibility for the deadly bombings and stabbings in August, but police have blamed Uyghur “terrorists.”

The World Uyghur Congress also said hundreds of Uyghurs have been detained in connection with the attacks. No official comment was immediately available.

Original reporting by Shohret and Gulchira for RFA’s Uyghur service. Additional reporting by Ding Xiao for RFA’s Mandarin service.Translated by Omer Kanat. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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