At least 15 ethnic Uyghurs have been killed in a shootout with police in Kashgar prefecture, Xinjiang, RFA reports.
They were among a group of more than 20 Uyghurs surrounded and fired upon by police in a lightning raid last week in the Yilkiqi township in Kargilik (in Chinese, Yecheng) county in Kashgar prefecture, the sources said.
“We conducted an anti-terror operation on August 20th, successfully and completely destroying the terrorists,” Yilkiqi township police chief Batur Osman told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
Rights groups in Beijing told RFA that police in the region often use the excuse of tackling “terrorism” to justify the use of force against Uyghurs.
One police officer is believed to have died during the shootout.
An RFA listener, citing contacts in Yilkiqi, his hometown, said he was told that police opened fire at a group of 28 Uyghurs they believed were undergoing terrorism training and those killed at the scene were buried on the spot using escavators.
“When they gathered in the desert and were praying together, they were surrounded and fired at. There were 26 people there and all of them were killed. The police, instead of carrying the bodies to the village, buried them all in the desert using a bulldozer,” an anonymous source told RFA.
There has been increasing unrest in the Xinjiang autonomous region in recent months. In April, a group of alleged terrorists took a minor government official hostage, leading to a battle with police which left 21 people dead. In June, police opened fire on a crowd protesting the arrest of a young imam and closure of a mosque, killing over 14 people and injuring at least 50. On the anniversary of July 5 riots in Urumqi, tanks and over 1,000 armed soldiers were deployed to the regional capital in a show of force by Chinese authorities.
[Image: A mosque in Kashgar’s old city. Credit: Remko Tanis]