BEIJING – BEIJING (AP) — Police have arrested four suspects in a deadly bomb attack on police auxiliary forces last week, a government spokeswoman said Wednesday, in the latest violence in China's restive Muslim far west.
The four were part of a "violent gang of six people" responsible for the attack in the city of Aksu, said Hou Hanmin, government spokeswoman in Xinjiang, China's Central Asian buffer province where Aksu is located.
In the attack last Thursday, the assailants drove a three-wheeled motorized vehicle into a crowd of people and then set off explosives. Eight people died, including two attackers and members of a civilian police auxiliary force, Hou said.
She and a report by the state-run Xinhua News Agency did not ascribe a motive. But Xinjiang has been beset by ethnic conflict and a sometimes-violent separatist movement by Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group that sees Xinjiang as its homeland. Many Uighurs resent the Han Chinese majority as interlopers.
Xinhua said the leader of the attack was Ehmet Kurban, a Uighur-sounding name, though the brief report did not provide further details about him.
It cited a spokesman for Xinjiang's Public Security Department as saying the suspects were arrested by last Sunday with the help of local residents.
"This violent crime seriously endangered public safety and property. The public security authorities will crack down on violent criminal activities in all forms relentlessly and punish those criminals according to law," Xinhua quoted the unidentified spokesman as saying.
Simmering tensions between Uighurs and Hans erupted last year into Xinjiang's worst ethnic violence in over a decade. Uighurs attacked Hans, overturning buses and cars and torching shops in the regional capital of Urumqi in a riot the government says killed 197 people. In the aftermath, hundreds were arrested and about two dozen sentenced to death. Many other Uighurs remain unaccounted for and are believed to be in custody.