BEIJING, Aug. 1 (UPI) — A second explosion in two days rocked Kashgar in western China, killing three people including a policeman, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua said.
The blast happened in central Kashgar at 4:30 p.m. Sunday and came at the end of a murderous weekend for the city of 350,000 in the western part of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and close to the border with Tajikistan.
The killings began Saturday in what police described as “a severely violent terrorism case,” Xinhua said.
Trouble began with two explosions, one in a parked van and one in a food market.
Just before midnight, two men fatally stabbed a truck driver and then drove the vehicle into a crowd. They also attacked bystanders with knives. Six people in the crowd were killed and 28 others were hurt, police said. At least one of the attackers was killed by the crowd.
Violence again erupted Sunday afternoon when four suspects were killed by police who continued to hunt for suspects, Xinhua reported.
Xinhua gave few details of police operations in the aftermath of the violence in Kashgar, the main city in the region which is predominantly Muslim and, similar to Tibet, is politically sensitive for the central government. Beijing is constantly on its guard against separatist groups it claims foment disorder in hopes of establishing an independent East Turkestan.
Around 8 million Uighur live in Xinjiang and many say they are unhappy about the large influx of Han Chinese settlers, whom the Uighurs say increasingly marginalize their interests and culture.
The violence in Kashgar comes less than two weeks after an attack on a police station in Hotan in southern Xinjiang left 18 people dead. Chinese authorities blamed Uighur extremists and some of Uighur attackers who died had links to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a shadowy militant organization fighting for an independent Uighur state.
Tensions in the region have remained high for the past two years after nearly 200 people died in clashes that rocked Urumqi, the capital of the region. More than 1,700 people were injured in the July riots that stretched across several days.
Tighter security in the region’s main cities and towns followed, including the reported installation of thousands of public surveillance cameras and an increase in police checking shoppers’ bags, especially near the anniversary of the deadly 2009 riots.
Local government officials blamed the 2009 riots on unemployed Uighur migrants living in nearly 50 shantytowns across the city. Beijing also said the riots were planned abroad by the World Uighur Congress, which they say is a terrorist organization and whose president, Rebiya Kadeer, 63, is also a terrorist.
The WUC was formed in April 2004 in Munich, Germany, as a collection of exiled Uighur groups including the Uighur American Association and the East Turkestan National Congress. Kadeer, a businesswoman and political activist, has been in exile in the United States since 2005 after 6 years imprisonment in China for allegedly leaking state secrets.
Chinese policy is make stern diplomatic representations to countries they say give unwarranted media cover to ethnic leaders such as Kadeer.
Last August, Beijing and Canberra had a diplomatic confrontation over and invitation for Kadeer to visit Australia.
The month before, two Chinese directors boycotted the prestigious Melbourne International Film Festival over the screening of a documentary about Kadeer. The Chinese government also was displeased because Kadeer addressed the National Press Club in Canberra, Australian media reported.