Chinese police have killed 28 members of a terrorist gang in a manhunt that lasted almost two months, state media agency Xinhua reported on Friday.
According to Xinhua, police in Xinjiang had “busted a terrorist gang” that was responsible for a September 18 attack on a Biacheng coal mine. In the attack by what Xinhua described as “armed mobsters,” 11 civilians, two police officers and two para-police officers had been killed and 18 people injured.The short Xinhua report on Friday said that police had been tracking down the gang for 56 days, and that one “terrorist” had surrendered, while 28 others were killed. It did not give details on the manhunt or the killings.
The Xinhua story is the first official acknowledgement of the September 18 attack on the Sogan colliery, and unofficial reports put the death toll much higher, with Radio Free Asia reporting that at least 50 people had been killed.
In a longer report today, the Xinjiang Daily said that after the coal mine attack, the gang fled into mountains and 10,000 people had been involved in the search for them, Reuters reported.
Reuters quoted the media outlet as describing the gang as being “under the command of a foreign extremist group,” adding that the 28 “thugs” were “completely annihilated.”
According to Reuters, the Xinjiang Daily wrote that the two people who appeared to have Uighur names were the leaders of the unnamed foreign group running the gang.The Xinjiang region is home to the Muslim Uighur ethnic group. Some Uighurs refer Xinjiang as East Turkestan and campaign for an independent state, while Chinese authorities had blamed militant separatist Uighurs for terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds of people in recent years, including a series of explosions in a market in May 2014 that left at least 31 people dead.
Some commentators accuse China of playing up the threat posed by Uighur separatists in order to keep tight control of the resource-rich region, while China argues that it faces a severe terrorist threat from Uighur groups, which it claims has sent members to fight with Islamic militants in the Middle East.
After the attacks on Paris on Friday, China’s state media complained of a Western double-standard that lamented atrocities such as those committed by Islamic State in France but failed to sympathize with the risk faced by China from terrorists.