16 killed in terror attack on police station in China(Third Lead, Changing dateline)

August 4th, 2008 - 8:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 4 (DPA) Police blamed terrorists for a raid Monday against a police station in north-western China’s Xinjiang region in which two men killed 16 police personnel and injured 16 others, the Xinhua news agency said. Two men drove a garbage truck into a team of border patrol police who were jogging outside their division in Kashgar, also known as Kashi, Xinhua quoted the police as saying.

The attackers got out of the lorry after the vehicle veered and hit a roadside wire pole. The men threw home made explosives toward the barracks, causing a blast, and then hacked at the officers with knives, Xinhua said.

Xinhua had earlier said the men threw two grenades.

Fourteen police officers were killed on the spot while two others died on the way to hospital. Debris from five explosives in the division yard were found, Xinhua said.

Police suspected a terrorist plot behind the raid, the report said.

The attack happened four days before the 2008 Olympic Games are scheduled to open in Beijing with security being a top concern.

Xinhua said the region’s public security department had received clues suggesting that the East Turkistan Islamic Movement planned to carry out terrorist attacks from the beginning of the month to Friday’s start of the Olympic Games.

The group is listed by the US and China as an international terrorist group but some security experts have questioned its existence, saying China lumps all ethnic Muslim Uighurs who want an independent state in Xinjiang as members of the movement.

The two attackers in Monday’s incident were arrested, the police were quoted as saying. One of the men suffered a leg injury in the raid.

Xinjiang province is, along with Tibet, a source of political tension in China. The territory’s Turkic Muslim Uighurs have complained of repression by Chinese authorities. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the former East Turkestan was annexed as an autonomous region - in a similar manner to Tibet.

The region has seen violent riots and attacks against the majority Han Chinese in the 1990s over resentment against what many Uighurs and rights groups consider to be repressive Chinese rule.

In the run-up to the Olympics, China has accused the East Turkistan Islamic Movement of plotting terrorist attacks to try to sabotage the Olympics.

In March, China said that police foiled an attempt by East Turkestan “separatists” to hijack a Southern Airlines flight. Three suspects were arrested.

The government said in April that it had foiled plots by two terrorist groups led by Uighurs, including a plan to kidnap foreigners and carry out suicide bombings during the Olympics.

Last week, Xinjiang officials told a news conference that police had cracked five terrorist groups in the first half of 2008 and arrested 82 suspected terrorists who allegedly plotted to sabotage the Olympics.

“The East Turkestan Islamic Movement was one of the main security worries to the Olympics, which also include separatist forces for Tibet independence, and the Falun Gong cult,” Xinhua quoted Tian Yixiang, a senior People’s Liberation Army commander and a security chief for the Games, as saying.

Uighur exile groups have accused China of using terrorism claims as an excuse for a broad crackdown on dissent in Xinjiang in the run-up to the Olympics.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, told DPA Monday the group had no contact with the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and did not know who was behind the latest attack.

However, he said China’s harsh policy toward Uighurs was to be blamed for increasing conflict in the region.

“Many Uighur people can no longer stand China’s suppression of Uighurs,” Raxit said. “What worries us most is China’s policy is leading to and forcing Uighur people to go toward the path of military confrontation.”

In the tense region, local residents apparently were warned not to speak about the incident hours after it happened.

“It was a real explosion but we just had a staff meeting and we’ve been told to not spread rumours, so I can’t tell you anymore,” said a woman who worked at a company near the police station.

A security guard who worked nearby said: “When I came to work, my colleague who was here at the time said there was a loud explosion.”

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