Six alleged suicide bombers were killed by the police in northwest China’s restive Xinjiang province on Monday, state media reports said.
The incident comes within days of the regional government’s controversial decision to ban the “burqa” in public places in the capital city of Urumqi and the authorities announcing that they will intensify efforts to bring stability to the province, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The region has seen frequent spurts of violence between the Muslim Uyghur community and local authorities in recent years and months.
Details of Monday’s violence were sketchy.
Official news agency Xinhua said local residents spotted a suspect carrying explosive devices in a commercial district of Shule county in the remote southwest part of XUAR.
“A suspect with an explosive device was spotted by local residents at about 10:10 a.m. in a commercial district in Shule County. The suspect, who later attacked police with an axe and tried to detonate the device, was shot dead by police,” the Xinhua report said.
As the police personnel were busy tackling the first suspect, five others – who also had explosive devices attached to their bodies – attempted ignite bombs.
“They were killed by the police on the spot,” the report added.
Later, a minibus loaded with explosives was also spotted near the site of the police action, the report said.
It is difficult to independently verify news from Xinjiang with authorities keeping a tight leash on the flow of information.
The authorities – like in similar cases earlier – did not identify the suspects or their ethnicity.
Authorities blame the violence in Xinjiang on separatists who are being incited by Islamist terror forces from abroad. Activists and critics play down the “foreign influence” theory and say it is China’s discriminatory policies against the Uyghurs that is fanning violence.
According to the authorities, the banning of the burqa, for one, will help curb “growing extremism” in the region.
“The regulation is seen as an effort to curb growing extremism that forced Uygur women to abandon their colorful traditional dress and wear black burqas,” state media said about the ban.