China kills two "terrorists" in Xinjiang raid
  • Mon, 02/18/2008 - 11:00

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Feb 18, 2008

BEIJING, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Chinese police shot and killed two members of a "terrorist gang" and rounded up 15 others during a raid last month in the restive northwestern Muslim region of Xinjiang, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.
The arrests came less than seven months before the Beijing Olympics, which open on Aug. 8.

Five policemen were wounded in the raid on Jan. 27 when three homemade grenades were hurled at them, Xinhua said. Police arrested 15 members of the group in the operation in the regional capital Urumqi.
Six of the arrested members of the group were wounded in the gunfight, Xinhua said, adding that police had seized "knives, axes and books about terrorism" from them.

Xinhua cited unnamed senior Xinjiang officials as vowing to step up their crackdown on militant activities "to ensure the safety of the upcoming Olympic Games".

"(The) masterminds behind such activities (will) face the toughest punishment according to the law," Xinhua paraphrased the officials as saying.

Xinhua said in a separate report on Monday that Chinese soldiers would be given more extensive anti-terrorism training to deal with risks such as nuclear and biochemical threats, during the Games.

Xinhua cited unnamed sources as saying that initial investigations showed the group had set up a stronghold in Urumqi last August and had collaborated with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which the United Nations added to its list of terrorist organisations in 2002.
China has waged a heavy-handed campaign against what it calls violent separatist activities by Uighur Muslims agitating for an independent East Turkestan State in the oil-rich Xinjiang region that borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

In January 2007, Chinese forces killed 18 people described as terrorists in a gun battle in Xinjiang. One policeman was killed and another wounded in the raid on a training camp in the mountains of the Pamirs plateau in southern Xinjiang.

A police spokeswoman said at the time that the training camp was run by ETIM.

China has accused Uighur militants of staging a series of terrorist attacks on Chinese civilians since the 1990s and has hinted at their links with al Qaeda, but rights groups say Beijing is using its support for the U.S.-led "war on terror" to justify a crackdown on Uighurs.

Xinjiang is home to 8 million Uighurs, a Turkic, largely Islamic people who share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia. Many resent the growing Han Chinese economic dominance in Xinjiang, as well as government controls on religion and culture. (Reporting by Guo Shipeng, Benjamin Kang Lim and Jason Subler; Editing by David Fogarty)