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Attack Kills 16 Border Police in Northwest China

BY Admin  August 4, 2008 at 10:05 AM EST

Chinese paramilitary officer in Kashgar; AP file

The Xinjiang province attack further stoked fears of acts of
terrorism on the Summer Olympics — set to start four days and 2,500 miles away
in Beijing. Chinese authorities have put thousands of police and military on
alert around cities hosting Olympic events.

About 20 people staged a demonstration near Tiananmen
Square in Beijing Monday to protest being evicted from their homes, the
Associated Press reported. Police quickly surrounded the group until members of
a neighborhood committee came and pulled the protesters away.

Monday’s violent raid in northwest China follows deadly bomb
blasts in the southwestern city of Kunming last month and in Shanghai in May,
killing a total of five people, which a Muslim militant group with ties to
Xinjiang claimed responsibility for, Agence France-Presse reported.

Chinese Olympics organizers said they were checking for any
link between Monday’s attack and the Olympics, but immediately sought to
reassure the world about security arrangements for the event.

“We have strengthened security work in all Olympic
venues and in the Olympic village. We are well-prepared in security for the
upcoming Games,” Beijing Olympic organizing committee spokesman Sun Weide
told AFP.

Xinhua, citing local police, called the assault on police a
“suspected terrorist attack.”

The attackers struck at 8 a.m., plowing into police officers
doing their morning exercises outside a hotel next to their paramilitary border
patrol post in Kashgar, Xinhua said.

After the dump truck struck an electrical pole, the men
jumped out, threw homemade explosives at the barracks and “also hacked the
policemen with knives,” the report said.

Fourteen officers died on the spot and two others en route
to a hospital, while at least 16 others were wounded, Xinhua said.

“I heard two explosions around 8 this morning,” a
receptionist in the Seman Hotel, a favorite for tourists visiting Kashgar in
search of Silk Road ambiance, told the Washington Post. “It was only
several hundred meters away. The road was blocked [by police] immediately
afterward.”

Xinhua said those killed were patrol troops from the
People’s Armed Police, a paramilitary force responsible for putting down riots,
guarding embassies and safeguarding the border.

Police arrested the two attackers, one of whom had a leg
injury, the AP reported. Their names were not released.

The attack was one of the deadliest and most brazen in
recent years in Xinjiang province, where local Muslims have waged a
sporadically violent rebellion against Chinese rule.

Local government officials declined comment Monday. An
officer in the district police department said an investigation had been
launched.

The exact location of the attack could not immediately be
determined. Kashgar, or Kashi in Chinese, is the name of an oasis town that was
once a stop on the Silk Road caravan routes and lies about 80 miles from the
border with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Chinese security forces have been on edge for months, citing
a number of foiled plots by Muslim separatists and a series of bombings around
China in the run-up to the Summer Games. Last week, a senior military commander
said radical Muslims who are fighting for what they call an independent East
Turkistan in Xinjiang posed the single greatest threat to the games, the AP
reported.

Xinhua said that Xinjiang’s police department earlier
received intelligence reports about possible terrorist attacks in the week
preceding the Olympics by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. The movement is
the name of a group that China and the U.S. say is a terrorist organization,
but Chinese authorities often use the label for a broad number of violent
separatist groups.

In Xinjiang, a local Turkic Muslim people, the Uighurs, have
chafed under Chinese rule, fully imposed after the communists took power nearly
60 years ago. Occasional violent attacks in the 1990s brought an intense
response from Beijing, which has stationed crack paramilitary units in the area
and clamped down on unregistered mosques and religious schools that officials
said were inciting militant action.

Uighurs have complained that the suppression has aggravated
tensions in Xinjiang, making Uighurs feel even more threatened by an influx of
Chinese and driving some to flee to Pakistan and other areas where they then
have readier access to extremist ideologies.

But human rights advocates contend that official accounts
are exaggerated to justify wide-ranging crackdowns on Uighur advocates.

One militant group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, pledged in
a video that surfaced on the Internet last month to “target the most
critical points related to the Olympics.” The group is believed to be
based across the border in Pakistan, with some of its core members having
received training from al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban, according to terrorism
experts.

Terrorism analysts and Chinese authorities, however, have
said that with more than 100,000 soldiers and police guarding Beijing and other
Olympic co-host cities, terrorists were more likely to attack less-protected
areas.