(AFP) – Aug 12, 2008
BEIJING (AFP) — Three security officers were killed in China's remote northwest on Tuesday, state media reported, raising the death toll from over a week of unrest there that has flared during the Olympics to 31.
Assailants jumped off a vehicle passing through a checkpoint in the Xinjiang region and stabbed four security officers, killing three of them and injuring the other, the Xinhua news agency reported.
The attack was the third in eight days in Xinjiang, a vast desert region bordering central Asia that is experiencing its biggest spike in violence in years.
Analysts attribute the surge to separatists from Xinjiang's repressed Muslim Uighur ethnic minority who are seeking to raise publicity for their cause while world attention is on China for the Beijing Olympics, which began last week.
China has also repeatedly warned that "terrorists" from Xinjiang are trying to sabotage the Games, but insisted massive security across the country will ensure there is no direct attack on the Olympics.
Xinhua said Tuesday's killings happened in Yamanya town, about 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Kashgar, one of Xinjiang's major cities where 16 policemen were murdered in the first attack on August 4.
China said terrorists seeking holy war carried out that attack, in which two assailants who were later captured drove a truck at a group of policemen, then attacked the officers with machetes and explosives.
The next flashpoint in Xinjiang was the city of Kuqa, where assailants using home-made bombs targetted police and government offices, as well as public buildings, on Sunday.
One security guard was killed and 11 attackers died in those bombings and ensuing clashes with police, according to Xinhua.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman of the German-based World Uighur Congress, said authorities in Kuqa had since detained over 90 innocent Uighurs.
"This includes women," he wrote in an email, quoting local Uighurs he had talked to by telephone. "They have also been mass detentions in adjacent areas."
It has proved extremely difficult to obtain independent information about recent events in Xinjiang, with the official Chinese account coming out through Xinhua and local authorities generally refusing to talk to foreign press.
Police and other authorities there refused to comment to AFP about Tuesday's incident.
"It's not convenient for us to talk about this right now," a police officer in Kashgar told AFP.
It was not immediately clear how many people were involved in Tuesday's attack, according to Xinhua, which said the assailants remained at large.
Xinhua did not specify what organisation the security staff killed in the attack belonged to.
Xinjiang has about 8.3 million ethnic Muslim Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people many of whom express anger at what they say have been decades of repressive Communist Chinese rule.
The Uighurs established two short-lived East Turkestan republics in Xinjiang in the 1930s and 1940s, when Chinese central government control was weakened by civil war and Japanese invasion.
Tensions have simmered over the decades but experts say such deadly attacks such as those over the past week have not been seen since the late 1990s.
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