An 18-year-old man from a village near Kashgar was arrested in connection to the killing of Jume Tahir, the Uyghur imam of China’s biggest mosque, state news media reports said.
The suspect, Aini Aishan, was detained in Khotan on accusations of inspiring and planning the fatal July 30 attack on the 74-year-old imam just two days after it occurred, authorities revealed on Sunday.
The imam was reportedly attacked by three men at 6:58 a.m. outside of the 600-year-old Id Kah mosque in Kashgar. Two men were shot dead at the scene by officers and another suspected assailant, 19-year-old Nurmemet Abidili, was detained, The New York Times reports.
An article from Urumqi in China Daily, an official English-language newspaper, said Sunday that Mr. Aishan had shown Mr. Abidili “terrorist videos” and taught him about “religious extremism” after Mr. Abidili, 19, had called Mr. Aishan in January to ask him how to learn more about Islam.
The two young men are from Kazilesu, near Kashgar. Mr. Aishan had worked at construction sites in Khotan since graduating from junior high school in his hometown in October 2012. In January 2013, the article said, he came into contact with a “local religious extremist group” from which he obtained “violent terrorist videos as well as prohibited religious publications so he could preach to other people.”
Months later, Mr. Abidili armed himself with an ax and attacked the imam in Kashgar with two other men, the reports said. One televised prison interview with him [below], which aired Sunday on a Xinjiang news program, showed him saying, “I thought killing the imam would be a grand achievement and would make us more influential.”
Following his arrest, Abidili spoke about learning the concept of jihad from Aishan. “It was the first time I had heard of jihad,” he said in an article published by the regional state-run newspaper Xinjiang Daily. “I was very excited. I wanted to do something big.”
The article added that Aishan’s family had told him to stop going to mosques that weren’t sanctioned by the state, but he ignored their advice.
“I know that my parents and wife are in a lot of pain right now. If I had another chance, I would listen to them, take care of my parents and be a good person,” he was quoted as saying.
A televised prison interview with the suspects Abidili (first to appear) and Aishan, which aired on a Xinjiang news program this past Sunday: