An ethnic Uighur teenager from China’s western Xinjiang region reportedly involved in a knife attack last week has told Chinese State media that he was roped in to take part in the violence by a group waging “holy war”.

In a televised “confession” broadcast on Sunday, the official State-run China Central Television (CCTV) said 19-year-old Murzahti, who was apprehended during the attack, was told by the leader of their group that “those who wage a holy war and die for it will not be judged after his death and will go directly to heaven”.

The broadcast came a week after Murzahti and two other Uighurs, named as Abduzahir and Abdughappar, broke into a public hall in Hotan, in southern Xinjiang near China’s western border with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and slashed people with knives and axes.

Security videos released this week showed three young men, armed with axes, hacking at people at a crowded chess-hall.

The two other attackers were killed as residents fought them with chairs and sticks before armed police responded to the calls for help. Murzahti was apprehended.

Murzahti said the group chose a chess hall as “an easy target”, but were caught off guard as residents fought back with chairs and sticks and overwhelmed the attackers. Four people were injured in the attack.

The broadcast of his “confession” came amid a heightened security and propaganda campaign by the government to counter what President Xi Jinping has described as the growing “momentum” of extremist groups in Xinjiang, a Muslim-majority region home to ethnic Uighurs.

Recent months have seen an unprecedented spate of attacks, as groups armed with knives and bombs have stormed railway stations and markets, killing close to 70 people and leaving several hundred injured in a number of incidents.

Attacks included a bomb and knife assault on the railway station in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s provincial capital; a knife attack carried out by eight people on the railway station in Kunming, in southwestern Yunnan province; and a bomb attack on a market place in Urumqi.

The teenager was reportedly told by their leader that ‘those who wage a holy war and die for it will go directly to heaven’.