Two ethnic minority Uyghurs went on a stabbing spree in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region last week, killing three police officers and three government officials before they were gunned down by the authorities in the latest violence to hit the troubled region, according to local officials.
Abdurehim Tuniyaz, 25, and Ablikim Abdurehim, 26, staged the killings in Hotan prefecture’s Guma (in Chinese, Pishan) county on Friday in what could have been a revenge attack over the death in police custody of one of their brothers, one source said.
The two, who were on a motorcycle, began their stabbing rampage by killing two police officers on patrol in Guma township before taking the life of a government official near the area, the local officials said.
They then traveled to nearby Kokterek township, where they killed two government officials and a police officer.
The duo were on their way back to their home in Guma township on Sunday when they were surrounded by police and shot dead at a checkpoint, Turmemet Abdurehim and Abbas Khan, two village chiefs in the Kokterek township, told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
Only two of the dead were identified by the officials—one of them a woman police officer, Peridem Kuresh, and the other a male police officer, Ablkim Mehsut.
Both were Muslim Uyghurs while the third unidentified police officer was believed to be a majority Han Chinese, according to the officials.
The slaying came amid an anti-terror campaign launched in Xinjiang following deadly attacks blamed by Beijing on Uyghur separatists and Islamist insurgents seeking to establish an independent state.
Rights groups accuse the Chinese authorities of heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, including violent police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people.
Kuresh was attached to the Kokterek police station and had been on patrol duty when she was stabbed to death, Khan said.
“She was a very strict and an outstanding officer and had received awards a couple of times for her good work,” he said.
The village chiefs said the motive of the attacks was unclear but a business owner in Guma township believed revenge by the two Uyghur youths could have been a reason.
Tuniyaz’s brother was detained during the Ramadan Muslim fasting month in July and had died in police custody.
“People are saying that it could have been a revenge attack for his brother who died in jail,” the business owner said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I believe so.”
A teacher in Guma township, also speaking on condition of anonymity, speculated that the authorities would classify the new attacks as the work of “separatists.”
“They were decent guys. When I last met them two years ago, they did not demonstrate any political leanings,” he said.
Meanwhile, a court in Xinjiang’s Kashgar prefecture has sentenced to death 12 people, all believed to be Uyghurs, blamed for attacks that killed 37 people in July, state media reported Monday.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the court sentenced another 15 people to death with a two-year reprieve while nine others received life sentences. Another 20 people received terms of four to 20 years.
The sentences were linked to July 28 violence in Kashgar’s Yarkand (in Chinese, Shache) county in which police shot dead dozens of knife and axe-wielding Uyghurs who went on a rampage, apparently angry over restrictions during the Ramadan holiday and the cold-blooded killing of a family of five.
It was one of the worst clashes in Xinjiang since bloody riots in the regional capital Urumqi in 2009 between Uyghurs and majority Han Chinese that left almost 200 people dead.
The new sentences bring the number of death sentences passed for Xinjiang-related violence to almost 40 since June, with 21 executions publicly announced, according to Agence France-Presse.
It is difficult to verify official media reports on any violence in Xinjiang due to Beijing’s tight control over the region.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.