Published June 27, 2013
BEIJING – The official death toll rose to 35 in a violent rampage in which assailants attacked police and other people with knives and burned cars at a remote town in China's far-western region of Xinjiang, state media said Friday.
Initial reports said 27 people were killed in Wednesday's violence, but the updates in state media included severely injured victims who died in the hospital.
The tally includes 11 assailants shot dead in Lukqun township in Turpan prefecture, following their attacks on police stations, a government building and a construction site, Xinhua News agency said. Two police officers were among the 24 people they killed, Xinhua said.
The report did not identify the ethnicity of the attackers, nor explain what may have caused the conflict in the Turkic-speaking region, where ethnic Uighur Muslims have complained of suppression and discrimination by China's ruling Han people. The report also said police injured and captured four other assailants.
The Wednesday violence — described as a terrorist act by China's state media — was one of the bloodiest incidents since unrest in the region's capital city of Urumqi killed nearly 200 in 2009.
Xinjiang (shihn-jeeahng) is home to a large population of minority Muslim Uighurs (WEE'-gurs) in a region that borders Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan and has been the scene of numerous violent acts in recent years, including the riots in the capital four years ago.
Critics have said the attacks stem from Beijing's oppressive and discriminatory ethnicity policies. Many Uighurs complain that Beijing imposes tight restrictions on their religious and cultural life, barring children and women from attending mosques and discouraging fasting during the Muslim month of Ramadan, which starts this year in early July.
The Chinese government says all ethnic groups are treated equally and point to billions of dollars in investment that has modernized Xinjiang, a strategically vital region with significant oil and gas deposits. Beijing often accuses overseas Uighur activists of orchestrating violent incidents and obscure militant groups sometimes take responsibility, with little or no evidence to prove claims on either side.
Instead, Beijing says such acts are terrorist attacks that have nothing to do with religion or ethnicity.
Independent news gathering of the incident has been impossible because of tight news control by the Chinese government. The state-run newspaper Global Times said police has set up many checkpoints along the 30-kilometer (19-mile) road to Lukqun and dissuaded reporters from traveling there due to safety concerns.