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Uyghur News
05-08-08, 11:31
China Locks Down Kashgar After Attacks on Police (Update2)

By Dune Lawrence

Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Police locked down Kashgar, cut Internet access in China's westernmost major city and detained journalists after an attack yesterday by members of the Uighur ethnic group killed 16 officers, according to media reports.

Web access was shut today in the city, Agence-France Pressereported, citing the staff of Yiquan Hotel, across the road from where yesterday's attack occurred. Two reporters working for Japan's Chunichi newspaper and Nippon Television Network were detained by police for two hours and beaten before being released, Kyodo English News said, citing the journalists' employers.

``Journalists are forbidden to enter the area controlled by border police, but the two disobeyed the rules,'' Kashgar's government spokesman Eskar said today, according to a report by state news agency Xinhua. ``We are sorry for the incident and the damage to the equipment that belonged to the reporters.''

Police detained two suspects after yesterday's attack, describing them as ethnic Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim minority group in Xinjiang province, state-owned Xinhua said. The authorities, counting Xinjiang's East Turkistan Islamic Movement as China's largest terror threat, have clamped down on the region's security and detained Uighur suspects ahead of Beijing's Aug. 8 Olympic Games.

``The Chinese authorities have a right to protect the life and security of their law enforcement officials,'' Amnesty International said in a statement yesterday after Xinhua reported the incident in Kashgar, known in Chinese as Kashi. ``However, attacks such as these should not be used to justify the promotion or implementation of repressive or abusive security measures.''

Fighting Militants

China has been fighting the East Turkistan Islamic Movement in Xinjiang since the 1980s, trying to wipe out militants who aim to establish an independent state for Uighurs along the border with Tajikistan.

Kashgar's population of 3.3 million people is 90 percent Uighur, mostly Muslims who speak a different language and bear little resemblance to ethnic-Han Chinese.

Two men yesterday drove a truck into a platoon of border patrol policemen on their morning jog, killing 16 of them and injuring another 16, Xinhua said yesterday. The two also threw home-made grenades and hacked at the officers with machetes, Xinhua said, citing local police.

A Polish couple who witnessed the assault from the Yiquan Hotel described the scene as ``sickening,'' AFP reported.

`Sickening' Assault

Police found nine home-made bombs, a gun, machetes and literature about a ``holy war'' at the scene of the attack, China's Public Security Ministry said today in a statement without giving further details.

With 4 billion television viewers projected to tune in to the opening ceremony, where more than 40 heads of state and government leaders may be in attendance, China wants to ensure the games go off safely.

``We can guarantee a safe and peaceful Olympic Games,'' the Beijing Olympics organizing committee spokesman Sun Weide told reporters today.

Chinese police arrested 82 people in the first six months of 2008 on charges of plotting terror attacks during the Olympics, underscoring the potential threat as China prepares to host its biggest international event.

As many as 18 ``foreign agitators'' have been arrested in Xinjiang in connection to an earlier incident of unrest, Reuters reported today, citing Kashgar's Communist Party chief Shi Dagang, without elaborating.

Urumqi's Security Cordon

China has cited terrorism as the biggest threat to China's Olympic security, and named the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which Beijing accuses of trying to split Xinjiang from China, as planning attacks. The Bush administration declared the group a terrorist organization in 2002, supporting the Chinese army's crackdown in Xinjiang.

Kashgar police have set up road blocks to check passengers, bags and vehicles, according to Xinhua. Armed traffic police have been patrolling buses in Urumqi since early July, Xinhua reported.

The Uighur people -- also spelt Uyghur -- condemn all acts of violence, the AFP reported yesterday, citing Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Washington D.C.-based Uyghur American Association. She urged caution in evaluating the Chinese government's reports of terrorist attacks by the group because the government routinely fails to provide evidence to back such reports, the AFP said.

Journalists Beaten

Chunichi's newspaper photographer Masami Kawakita, 38, and Nippon Television's reporter Shinji Katsuta, 37, suffered light injuries after they were taken from their hotel by police and beaten, Kyodo said today. Kawakita's equipment was partially destroyed, Kyodo said.

The border police have apologized after they ``clashed'' with the journalists who were trying to film a restricted area under police control, Xinhua said.

The journalists have accepted the apology and police offers to pay for repairs to their damaged equipment and medical bills, the Chinese state news agency said.

Police also entered the hotel room of an AFP photographer and forced him to delete photos he had taken of the attack scene in Kashgar, AFP said in a separate report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dune Lawrence in Beijing at dlawrence6@bloomberg.net
Last Updated: August 5, 2008 05:42 EDT