BEIJING: The death toll from a bombing and the aftermath in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province on Sunday rose to eight, with four injured, state media said.
Seven attackers and one security guard died in the attack in which the bombers drove a tricycle laden with explosives into the yard of a police station in the remote city of Kuqa, Xinhua news agency said.
Two police officers and two civilians were also injured, Xinhua said.
Explosions shook the remote city of Kuqa while it was still dark on Sunday morning, with the assailants targetting the police station and a government office, Xinhua news agency reported.
Two policemen and a security guard were injured in the bombings, while security personnel killed five attackers, according to Xinhua, which was the only official source in tightly controlled China for details of the incident.
The violence was the latest to rock the region of Xinjiang, a vast area in China’s northwest that borders central Asia, where Islamic separatists have vowed to stage attacks in an effort to wreck the Beijing Olympics.
In one of the deadliest attacks in China in years, two alleged Muslim militants using explosives and knifes to attack policemen out jogging in the Xinjiang town of Kashgar on August 4, leaving 16 dead and 16 wounded.
China blamed that attack, which occurred four days before the start of the Games, on Islamic militant Uighur separatists.
Xinjiang has about 8.3 million ethnic Muslim Uighurs, many of whom express anger at what they say has been decades of repressive Communist Chinese rule.
Two short-lived East Turkestan republics emerged in Xinjiang in the 1930s and 1940s, when Chinese central government control was weakened by civil war and Japanese invasion.
China has repeatedly accused Uighur militants of the banned East Turkestan Islamic Movement of plotting attacks on the Olympics and has implemented sweeping security in Xinjiang and in Beijing in the lead-up the Games.
The army and police quickly imposed heavy security in Kuqa, which has a population of about 400,000, following Sunday’s violence, according to Xinhua and a local resident.
“Don’t come today, the town centre is closed,” a receptionist at the Kuqa Hotel told AFP by phone.
Kuqa is about 740 kilometres from Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, and over 3,000 kilometres from Beijing.
Uighur separatists in Xinjiang have released two video statements threatening to attack the Olympics.
But Olympic organisers sought to reassure the hundreds of thousands of foreigners in China to attend the Games that Sunday’s attack should be of no concern for them.
“I do not believe this will have an impact on the Olympic Games… I do not think it is related to the Olympics,” Wang Wei, vice president of the organising committee for the Games, told reporters in Beijing.
He emphasised that security had already been stepped up in Xinjiang.
Chinese authorities on Friday announced they had stepped up controls on religious figures and potential “trouble-makers” in Kashgar to guard against future incidents.
Critics say China’s communist rulers have exaggerated the security threat in Xinjiang and elsewhere to justify the repression of unhappy minorities such as the Uighurs.
Channel News Asia