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China tightens security after attack that killed 16 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 August 2008

The Muslim men who killed 16 police officers in western China were waging a “holy war”, the Chinese authorities claimed today, as inhabitants of the city of Kashgar prepared themselves for a security clampdown in the aftermath of the attack, reports The Times.

Extra police were visible at tourist sites in the city and, according to Chinese state media, cars coming into the city were being searched after the devastating attack yesterday when two men drove a lorry into a group of border patrolmen, threw two bombs, and set about the survivors with knives.

Extra police had been posted at government office buildings, schools and hospitals, the Xinhua news agency added.

“On the scene, police also found two knives used in the attack and some propaganda material advocating a 'holy war',” said a statement by the public security ministry in Beijing.
The attackers have been identified by the police as Muslim Uighurs, the majority ethnic group in the western province of Xinjiang, many of whom want independence from China.

The attack, the biggest of its kind in ten years, caused alarm but little surprise in Kashgar, an oasis town on the ancient Silk Route, where Chinese immigrants are greatly outnumbered by Uighur locals. Most people refused to discuss the incident, for fear of getting into trouble with the security forces, but the few who were prepared to speak anonymously expressed mixed feeling about the effect of the attack.

“I am happy and sad,” one Uighur told The Times. “I’m happy because this was a brave act and it shows that Uighurs have courage and resist the government to get our independence. But I’m sad because this will mean more pressure on us.”

When the Olympic torch passed through Kashgar, the authorities announced a curfew and a shoot-to-kill policy against those who violated it, according to local people.

“If they arrest people, it takes a few days before you hear about it, because the news does not report it, and the families of those people are too afraid to speak out,” said one Uighur.

Some foreign journalists in Xinjiang reported being followed around the city by plain clothes police. The Japanese government announced its intention of making an official protest after a television correspondent and a photographer were arrested by police at the scene of the attack and beaten up during the course of two hours in custody last night.

A reporter working for The Times was ordered to delete pictures of the scene form a digital camera, although all traces of the attack had been hosed away several hours before. Internet access in the hotel where foreign journalists were staying disappeared overnight. It was restored on Tuesday afternoon.

The Chinese authorities insisted that the attack would not have any effect on the Olympics, 2500 miles away in Beijing.

“There is always the risk to the security of the Bejing Olympics,” Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organising committee, said.

“That is why we have drafted hundreds of security plans, and now we are prepared to deal with these kind of security threats. We can guarantee a safe and peaceful Olympic Games.”

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