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Knife attack in China's Xinjiang leaves seven dead

Seven Chinese people were killed and 28 others wounded after a knife attack in the religiously-tensioned city of Xinjiang

AFP , Sunday 31 Jul 2011
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Seven people were killed and 28 others wounded by two knife-wielding assailants in China's ethnically-tense Xinjiang region, authorities said Sunday, in the latest bout of unrest to hit the area.

One of the attackers was later killed in the violence that erupted Saturday night in Kashgar city -- the second disturbance this month in Xinjiang, where the mainly Muslim Uighur minority has long seethed against Chinese rule.

Hou Hanmin, spokeswoman for the government of the northwestern region, told AFP the attackers were both Uighurs, adding the suspect who was still alive had been detained.

"The case is still under investigation so I don't have more information," she said.

According to tianshannet.com, a website run by the regional government, the two suspects hijacked a truck that was waiting at a light at the food market in Kashgar, an ancient Silk

Road city not far from the border with Kyrgyzstan.

They killed the driver, ploughed the vehicle into passers-by on a nearby pavement, then got off the truck and stabbed people at random, leaving six bystanders dead before the crowd turned on them and killed one attacker.

An English-language report from the official Xinhua news agency said two blasts were heard before the incident, saying the first came from a minivan and the other was heard almost simultaneously and originated from the market.

But it gave no further details, and the Chinese-language Xinhua report made no mention of the blasts. Hou said she had no information on any explosions.

Police in Kashgar would not comment and the Xinjiang public security bureau was not immediately available when contacted by AFP.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress -- an exile group -- cited local sources as saying the assailants had clashed with members of a civilian force that maintains public security.

"This incident is hard to believe but must be addressed. Beijing should accept the responsibility that repression triggered this incident," he said.

Many Uighurs are unhappy with what they say has been decades of political and religious repression, and the unwanted immigration of China's dominant Han ethnic group.

While standards of living have improved, Uighurs complain that most of the gains go to the Han.

This underlying tension has triggered sporadic bouts of violence in Xinjiang -- a vast, arid but resource-rich region bordering Central Asia, home to more than eight million Turkic-speaking Uighurs.

Earlier this month, more than 20 people were killed in a violent clash with police in the remote city of Hotan.

State media quoted an official in Xinjiang as saying that clash was a "terrorist" attack, adding that four people including a police officer were killed when a crowd set upon a police station.

But Uighur activists called it an outburst of anger by ordinary Uighurs and said security forces beat 14 people to death and shot dead six others during the unrest.

In the nation's worst ethnic violence in decades, Uighurs savagely attacked Han Chinese in the regional capital Urumqi in July 2009 -- an incident that led to retaliatory attacks by Han on Uighurs several days later.

The government says around 200 people were killed and 1,700 injured in the violence, which shattered the authoritarian Communist Party's claims of harmony among the country's dozens of ethnic groups.

China threw a huge security clampdown onto Xinjiang after the violence, and many Uighurs are enraged by the arrests or alleged disappearances of people rounded up across the region in the aftermath.

Raxit said at least 100 Uighurs had been detained following Saturday's incident.

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