At least 10 people were killed and dozens injured following knife-attacks and blasts in China's far-western Silk Road city of Kashgar on Saturday and Sunday, in the latest incidence of violence to hit the frontier Xinjiang region.
The official Xinhua news agency reported four people were also shot dead by police, after an eruption of violence in downtown Kashgar on Sunday afternoon saw “rioters” attack pedestrians and police officers, leaving at least three killed and 10 injured.
Sunday's violence followed a knife attack on Saturday night, which left seven people killed and 28 others injured, according to Xinhua.
Xinhua also reported that a series of explosions, two on Saturday night and another on Sunday, had rocked the city, but left unclear whether there were any casualties. The violence follows a July 21 attack on a police station in Hotan, which left at least 18 people killed. The attack was first blamed by the government on rioters, but later described as “a severely violent terrorism case”.
The government has blamed the unrest on separatist and terrorist groups. Xinjiang has also seen intermittent ethnic unrest between the native Uighur Muslim population and increasing number of migrants of China's majority Han Chinese ethnic group.
Xinhua said Saturday attack had been caused by two “rioters” who had hijacked a truck, stabbing its driver and then “ramming into pedestrians”. The two suspects then “jumped out of the truck and hacked the passers-by”, leaving six people killed and 28 injured. One of the attackers was also killed.
A later report said “two blasts” were heard before the incident at the same location where the truck was hijacked, without saying whether there were further casualties. Xinhua reported another blast was heard on Sunday in downtown Kashgar, with three people, including one police officer, killed.
A later report from Xinhua, however, said the deaths had been caused by rioters who had “hacked” pedestrians and police with 10 others injured.
Four suspects had been apprehended, while searchwas on for several others involved. Fire-fighters and ambulances were “rushing” to the scene.
The Hindu could not independently confirm Sunday's events. A representative of a tourism company in Kashgar said in a telephone interview that some sections of the city had been cordoned off amid heavy police deployment.
Kashgar, which lies a few hours' away from border with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) along the Karakoram Highway, was also the scene of an attack on a police station in August 2008, which left 16 police officers dead.
Beijing has blamed separatist groups, such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, of stirring unrest in the city. It has recently announced plans to boost development in Kashgar and other cities in southern Xinjiang, which have lagged the rest of the region.
The government last year said it would build an economic development zone in Kashgar, modelled on Shenzhen in the east, China's first Special Economic Zone, to transform the dusty oasis town, renowned for its mosques and old neighbourhoods of mud houses, into a modern trading hub. The strategically-significant project, Chinese officials say, will boost trade with Pakistan, as well as tighten China's links with energy-rich West and Central Asia.