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01-09-08, 04:33
6 Uighur figures killed by police, Beijing says
AP[Sunday, August 31, 2008 20:39]
BEIJING: Chinese police officers investigating a spate of attacks last month in the far western region of Xinjiang shot and killed six suspected rebels and arrested three, state media reported over the weekend.

An exile group, meanwhile, accused the police of gunning down the suspects - members of the Xinjiang region's Muslim Uighur ethnic minority - after they had surrendered.

Xinhua, the state-run news agency, reported that police officers had encountered nine suspects in a corn field near the far western city of Kashgar on Friday night. The suspects had knives and tried to resist arrest, putting up a "desperate struggle," Xinhua said.

A policeman and a local militia man were wounded in the fight, the report said. The police told Xinhua that its initial investigations had linked the suspects to attacks on Aug. 12 and Aug. 27. The report gave no other details.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, a group in Germany, said that armed police officers surrounded the corn field and asked the Uighur men through a loudspeaker to surrender themselves, promising to provide them with lawyers.

The suspects did not resist arrest and the police opened fire with submachine guns after they had surrendered, Raxit said in a statement Saturday, citing accounts by local Uighurs.

An official of the Xinjiang government - speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media - said that six suspects had been shot and killed. But he denied that the men had been shot after surrendering and called the allegation "nonsense."

On Aug. 12, Xinhua reported, attackers jumped from a vehicle and stabbed civilian guards at a roadside checkpoint in Yamanya town, near Kashgar, killing three of them. The assailants escaped. On Wednesday, it was reported that two police officers had died and seven were wounded after a clash in a village in Jiashi County, a Uighur town.

No one has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, though government officials have suggested that terrorism is behind the violence.

Critics accuse Beijing of using those claims of terrorism as an excuse to crack down on peaceful, pro-independence sentiment and expressions of Muslim Uighur identity.