Chinese police killed 17 people, including suspects who were allegedly responsible for a deadly terrorist knife attack in the Xinjiang region in September, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Wednesday.
“All of the terrorists” behind the September 18 attack on Sogan colliery in Baicheng county were killed in the raid, the US-based broadcaster’s Uighur service reported, citing Xinjiang-based police.
The suspects killed included Tursun Jume, 46, Musa Toxtiniyaz, 47, and Memet Eysa, 60, from Chokatal Meadow, in Kanchi township.
Their family members were also killed in the raid, the report said.
Among the dead was Eysa’s 9-year-old adopted granddaughter and two boys, aged 1 and 6, belonging to Jume’s family, RFA said. The four women killed were Jume’s 44-year-old wife, Eysa’s 55-year-old wife and two of his daughters-in-law.
The women and children were not involved in the colliery attack and had only followed the suspects when they fled Kanchi township, a township official told RFA in October.
Xinjiang is largely closed off to foreign media, delaying and compromising information from the region and rendering reports difficult to confirm. Calls to the Xinjiang government went unanswered.
The 17 people allegedly went on the run after a gang of knife-wielding separatists killed 50 people and injured another 50 in the Aksu prefecture coal mine, RFA reported.
At least five police officers including a local police chief died when attackers set on security guards at the gate to a mine in Terek township, storming the owner’s residence and a dormitory for workers, housing mostly members of the Han ethnic majority.
The gang also rammed police vehicles using trucks loaded with coal, sources told RFA. The assailants searched for explosives but did not find any, the report said.
Authorities sustained no casualties in killing the 17, a Terek township police officer reportedly told RFA.
“I heard from colleagues who participated in the operation that the military blew up the cave where the suspects were hiding,” Ghalip Memet was quoted as saying.
A special unit located and killed the suspects, the Ministry of Public Security announced Saturday in a social media post that was deleted on Sunday.
The ministry made its announcement via its official Sina Weibo microblog hours after the Paris attacks.
“On November 13, Black Friday, Paris, France suffered the most serious terrorist attack in its history. Hundreds of people died or were injured,” the post said.
“On the other side of the planet, China’s Xinjiang police launched a final attack on terrorists and after a 56-day manhunt, finally achieved a significant result.”
China has vowed to crack down on the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism in Xinjiang.
The Xinjiang autonomous region has a history of discord between Beijing authorities and the nationally predominant Han people on one side, and the regionally indigenous, majority-Muslim ethnic Uighur population.
Many Uighurs in Xinjiang complain of cultural and religious repression, claiming that ethnic Han Chinese migrants enjoy most of the benefits of development in the oil-rich but economically backward region.