Chinese authorities say two attacks in the country's remote region of Xinjiang have left at least 19 people dead, including five attackers, and injured more than 40 others.
Chinese officials say the two incidents, which occurred late Saturday evening and then again on Sunday afternoon in the city of Kashgar, were both terrorist attacks. Authorities also claim that at least one of the leaders of Sunday’s attack received terrorist training in Pakistan.
Chinese state media say the spree of violence in Xinjiang began when two bombs shook the streets of Kashgar. Authorities say an hour after the blasts on a nearby street, two terrorists hijacked a truck, killed its driver, and then drove it into a crowd of pedestrians. Chinese media reported the attackers then got out of the truck and began stabbing people who were passing by.
The Kashgar city government says eight bystanders were killed in the violence, one attacker was killed and another was apprehended.
On Sunday afternoon, authorities said a bigger group of men carried out the second alleged attack, stabbing the owner of a restaurant and a waiter and then setting it on fire. The attackers then ran out of the restaurant and began stabbing bystanders randomly, killing four and wounding 15 others. Chinese media reported four of the attackers were shot dead after leaving the restaurant and another died later at the hospital.
The Kashgar city government issued an arrest warrant for two of the attackers, who escaped, and offered a reward of more than $15,000 for any information that leads to their capture. Both are members of Xinjiang's Uighur minority group.
The city government identified the two as 29-year old Memtieli Tiliwaldi and 34-year old Turson Hasan.
The Kashgar city government says that based on a confession from one of the alleged attackers, at least one of the group's leaders who participated in Sunday's attack received firearms and explosives training in Pakistan and then later returned to Xinjiang.
The statement says the leader received training from a Pakistan-based camp of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a banned organization that seeks independence for Xinjiang. A spokesman with the Kashgar city government could not be reached for comment.
Xinjiang is home to millions of Muslim Uighurs, who are angry about what they say has been decades of repressive rule by Beijing and the unwanted immigration of China's dominant Han ethnic group.
Dilxat Raxit, the spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, questioned China's account of the events and says the lack of legitimate means to voice grievances in the region may drive some to violence.
There there is no way for Uighurs to protest through peaceful means, he said, and that Beijing has to acknowledge its responsibility in what has happened in the area. From what he has heard, people in Kashgar have been forbidden from leaving their homes and authorities have detained more than 100 people, Raxit said.
The two attacks wrap up what has been a violent month for Xinjiang.
Less than two weeks before the attacks in Kashgar, a group of 14 men allegedly stormed a police station. According to government accounts of the incident, 18 people were killed after the men took hostages. Fourteen of those who died were the attackers. Four remain in custody and authorities have released no additional information - such as their names or what might have possibly brought on the attack.
During that attack Chinese terrorism analysts suggested that links to terrorist groups in Pakistan could have been a factor. World Uighur Congress spokesman Raxit says that the Chinese government always tries to link such incidents to terrorism.
The Chinese government uses repressive measures against demonstrations, he said, and tries to avoid responsibility by linking every act of protest to terrorist organizations.
China denies the claims of the World Uighur Congress and in turn has accused the group of masterminding a riot in Urumqi in 2009, that left nearly 200 people dead.
Most of the casualties were members of China's Han ethnic group.
Article by William Ide, VOA News