Authorities in northwestern China’s Xinjiang on Wednesday shot and killed two teenage Uyghur suspects who allegedly injured two people in a knife attack, police said, in the latest violence to hit the restive region.
The incident occurred around 8:00 p.m. local time in Kashgar city, southwest of the regional capital Urumqi, after police attempted to arrest the two armed men in response to a public complaint, local authorities told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“We arrived at the spot after the public report and we encircled the suspects, as they were holding knives,” said Alimjan, chief of police at Kashgar’s Yengibazar (in Chinese, Dongmen) police station.
“However, they attacked the public upon seeing us, injuring two Han Chinese, so we fired on the suspects,” he said, adding that the action was based on the government’s “shoot to kill” order following increasingly deadly violence attributed to “separatist” groups in the region.
Alimjan said that one of the suspects died at the scene, while the other succumbed to gunshot wounds during treatment at an area hospital.
The police chief said that his unit had only been called in to “keep order and calm the situation,” so he was unclear about the identification of the two suspects.
“When I saw them, they looked like they were 17 or 18 years old. Later, I was told by investigators that they were both born in 1996,” he said, before referring further questions to the Kashgar prefectural police department.
The chief of police for Kashgar’s Yawagh district told RFA that the knife attack had been carried out by “separatists,” referring to Uyghurs who chafe under Chinese rule in the Xinjiang region.
“We are so busy after … [the] separatist attack,” he said.
“Right now we are tightening our checks and surveillance of the entire city.”
Dawutjan Hoshur, chief of Kashgar’s Kumbagh police department, said that the incident occurred 5 kilometers (3 miles) away from his station, near a hospital for the treatment of respiratory diseases.
“Han Chinese traders reported [the suspects] to the authorities, so the Yengibazar police, together with a SWAT team, dealt with the suspects,” he said.
“I do not know the details of the incident. This happened in the Yengibazar police jurisdiction, so they know more information.”
The latest incident occurred less than a week after a bomb exploded in front of a police department and four other bombs were defused by authorities in Yarkand (Shache) county in Kashgar prefecture on May 23.
A day earlier, five suicide bombers carried out an attack on a vegetable market in Urumqi, leaving 39 people dead and more than 90 others injured in the worst violence in Xinjiang in years amid tensions between ethnic minority Uyghurs and Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in China.
Uyghurs in Xinjiang say they are subjected to discriminatory and often violent checks and searches and restrictive religious and cultural policies and suffer from a lack of economic opportunity.
China Central Television recently reported that the elite Politburo, a decision-making body of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, had met under the chairmanship of President Xi Jinping and discussed measures to counter “extremists” in Xinjiang in the wake of last week’s explosions.
Beijing has announced a one-year crackdown to hunt down and punish “terrorists” in Xinjiang and “prevent terrorism and extremism from spreading to other regions.”