The Chinese government on Monday said this weekend’s violence in Xinjiang, which left at least 20 people killed, was carried out by a group of extremists who had been trained in terror camps in Pakistan.
Knife attacks and blasts on Saturday and Sunday rocked the city of Kashgar, which lies a few hours’ away from China’s border with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) along the Karakoram Highway, leaving dozens injured in a crowded food market and in a busy downtown area.
The official Xinhua news agency said an initial probe had found that the attackers “had learned skills of making explosives and firearms in overseas camps of the terrorist group East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Pakistan,” before entering Xinjiang.
On Sunday, six civilians were killed and 15 others, including three policemen, injured after attackers, armed with knives, attacked a restaurant in downtown Kashgar. Five reported attackers were also shot dead by the police.
The State-run Global Times newspaper, citing an eyewitness, said the attackers were armed with guns.
Sunday’s violence followed a knife attack on Saturday night that left eight civilians killed and 27 others injured near a street market, after two armed suspects hijacked a truck and rammed it into pedestrians before attacking them with knives. Two blasts were also reported on Saturday, near the scene of the attack.
The incidents follow a July 21 attack on a police station in Hotan, also in Xinjiang, which left at least 18 people killed. The attack was first blamed by the Chinese government on “rioters”, but later described as “a severely violent terrorism case.”
Xinjiang has also seen recent incidents of ethnic unrest between the native Uighur Muslim population and increasing number of migrants of China’s majority Han Chinese group. While the Chinese government has blamed the unrest on Uighur separatist and terrorist groups, many Uighurs have also cited rising inequalities as stoking ethnic discord.
Following the Hotan attack, Chinese security analysts pointed to the role of separatist groups, based in Pakistan, in being behind the recent violence.
Pan Zhiping, director of the Institute of Central Asia at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times following the Hotan attack that in cities in southern Xinjiang close to China’s western border faced a “risk of being influenced by terrorists groups such as the ETIM”.
Mr. Pan told Xinhua on Monday overseas groups traditionally trained members for bombings before sending them to Xinjiang, but “more are using the Internet to penetrate the border”.
Zhao Gancheng, a South Asia scholar at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told The Hindu in a recent interview that the ETIM movement was “very active on the soil of Pakistan”.
He said relations between China and Pakistan, “all-weather” strategic allies, were unlikely to be greatly strained by the terror factor, and both countries had kept “good communications on this issue” and were working to boost counterterrorism cooperation. Hindu