Conflicting details have been trickling in about a described “terror attack” carried out by a knife-wielding mob in the Kashgar Prefecture of Xinjiang early Monday morning that left “dozens” of people dead. Meanwhile, sources cited in Radio Free Asia said that Jume Tahir, the head of the largest mosque in China, was discovered dead in a pool of blood outside the Id Kah mosque in Kashgar on Wednesday in an “assassination” attempt following the violence.
According to a report issued by Xinhua, a group of armed assailants attacked a police station and government buildings in the town of Elixku, of Shache county before traveling to another township of the region and attacking bystanders. “Dozens” of the attackers were gunned down by police, according to the report, as a number of cars were set aflame or vandalized.
The South China Morning Post, citing sources and a report from a local party conference, said that at least 10 civilians were killed, 22 assailants were shot dead and another 41 assailants were arrested in the attack.
Sources at the conference also told the Post that 13 civilian injuries, six torched vehicles and 31 ‘sabotaged’ vehicles were reported in the clash. Details are scarce as internet access in at least two counties of Kashgar were cut off, according to the report.
Radio Free Asia, however, reported that Chinese police shot down armed ethnic minority Uyghur Muslims who had gone on a “rampage” over Ramadan restrictions imposed by officials in the region. Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman with the Germany-based exile World Uyghur Congress (WUC), was quoted in AFP as saying that the Uyghurs were “resisting China’s extreme repressive policy” when they were confronted with violence.
The US-based Uyghur American Association (UAA) was likewise quoted in the report as calling those killed on Monday “victims of extrajudicial killings”.
“China does not want the world to know what occurred on Monday in Elishku Township,” UAA President Alim Seytoff said in a statement. “That state media could label the killing of dozens of people as in line with the law reflects the poor regard the state has for its own laws and judicial process.”
Western tourists on Wednesday told Reuters that there was a heavy security presence in the area following the attacks. The French traveler cited said that he saw a body lying outside the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar’s old town that morning.
Radio Free Asia later reported that Jume Tahir, an Uyghur imam of the 600-year-old Id Kah mosque in Kashgar who was critical of violence in the region, was stabbed to death outside of the prayer house.
“I do not know who killed him or why he was killed, nobody dared to ask this question. His family members and relatives were weeping. They said he was assassinated,” said the vice-president of the China Islamic Association.
“What I heard was that as he was returning from the mosque, he was stabbed to death.”