China sends anti-terrorist unit to restive Xinjiang

AFP , Saturday 13 Aug 2011

China deploys an anti-terrorism police unit to the ethnically-disturbed norhwest region of Xinjinag

Police forces in China seek to stabilize the internal situation in the unstabilized province of Xinjiang (Photo:AP)

China has deployed an elite police counter-terrorism unit to the restive northwest region of Xinjiang after a series of deadly attacks there, state media reported Saturday.

The Snow Leopard Commando unit is expected to carry out "anti-terrorist missions" in Kashgar and Hotan, which were hit by the recent violence, the China Daily newspaper quoted a spokesman for the region's police force as saying.

The unit is an elite counter-terrorism group under the People's Armed Force whose responsibilities include riot control and bomb disposal as well as reacting to hijacks.

The elite unit's presence in Xinjiang was to secure the region after last month's attacks and ahead of a trade convention next month, the police spokesman added, but did not give details of the size of the deployment.

Xinjiang has seen several outbreaks of ethnic violence in recent years as the mainly Muslim Uighur minority bridles under what it regards as oppression by the government and the unwanted immigration of ethnic Han Chinese.

Tensions boiled over again in July when two knife attacks as well as clashes between Uighurs and police killed more than 30 people in the resource-rich and strategically vital region.

Officials and state media have blamed the unrest on "terrorists" but some experts say the government has produced little evidence of an organised terrorist threat, adding the violence stems more from long-standing local resentment.

In July 2009, China was hit by its worst ethnic violence in decades when Uighurs savagely attacked Han Chinese in Urumqi -- an incident that led to deadly reprisals by Han on Uighurs several days later.

The government said around 200 people were killed and 1,700 injured in the 2009 violence.

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