A suspected terror attack killed 16 policemen in west China’s politically sensitive Xinjiang region on Monday morning, just four days before the Olympics, amid tight security restrictions in Beijing.
Around 8 am, two suspected Islamic militants drove a truck into policemen jogging in China’s western tip of Kashgar and threw crude explosives at the barracks, reported State-run news agency Xinhua.
The duo then lashed at the policemen with knives, killing 16 and injuring 16 others before they were arrested.
Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters this was the most serious incident recorded in years. "Ahead of the Olympics, it is a powerful symbolic attack because security in Xinjiang is at an all-time high."
Beijing’s Olympic organisers were quick to say they would ensure a ‘worry-free’ Games. China has maintained an uneasy calm in oil and gas-rich Xinjiang that is home to many Muslim Uighurs who resent an expanding influx of Han Chinese and control over their economy and religion. China says that Uighur militants, campaigning for an independent East Turkestan, are high on its list of terror threats for the Games.
In March, the government said it had foiled an attempted sabotage by ‘East Turkestan separatists’ on a Southern Airlines flight from the Xinjiang capital Urumqi to Beijing. Last week, a Xinjiang official said that police had cracked five terror groups this year, detaining 82 suspects for plotting to sabotage the Olympics.