16 officers killed in China

The Baltimore Sun

BEIJING - The two suspects who were arrested after reportedly killing 16 border police officers yesterday in China's far west were members of the Uighur minority, the government reported.

The attack, which occurred in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, also wounded 16 members of the paramilitary force after officials say the two men drove a dump truck into a group of 70 officers jogging past a local hotel about 8 a.m.

According to the state-run New China News Agency, one attacker drove at the team while the other jumped out of the vehicle and threw an explosive device toward the gate of the security team's police station. The truck then hit a pole.

Local police said an attacker injured one of his limbs as he set off the bomb. The two men were reportedly arrested on the spot and a search of the vehicle turned up 10 other explosives, a homemade handgun and four knives.

The policemen were on a daily morning jog, heading east on Seman Road in front of the Talimu Petroleum Hotel, residents said.

"Every morning, they run along this street," said a man who identified himself only by the surname Xia. "They were hit by the truck. The two people used knives and killed some of them."

Most Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim minority that has chafed under Chinese Han rule, live in the far western province of Xinjiang, where they account for about 40 percent of the province's 20 million population.

Yesterday's attack was among the most deadly in the far west in recent years. Xinjiang has seen sporadic violence that peaked in the 1990s at the hands of local Muslims protesting Chinese crackdowns.

Sun Weide, a media official with the organizing committee of the Beijing Games, said China was stepping up security ahead of opening ceremonies Friday.

"We've made preparations for all possible threats," Sun told reporters. "We believe, with the support of the government, with the help of the international community, we have the confidence and the ability to host a safe and secure Olympic Games."

Human rights critics concede that China has legitimate security concerns, as does any host country holding a major event in the wake of the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. But some argue that China might be overplaying threats to justify a widespread crackdown on political expression and protest seen in recent months.

Tian Yixiang, a senior army commander and security chief for the Olympics, said that radical separatist Uighur groups were the principal security concern during the Games. Other threats, he added, included pro-independence Tibet organizations and the Falun Gong, a spiritual group that Beijing has condemned as an "evil cult."

The state news agency reported that 14 of the police died at the scene of yesterday's attack and two more died en route to the hospital. Uighurs, particularly those working for the Xinjiang government, are not allowed to worship in mosques or speak their language on the job. They often are required to sit through hours of political lectures each week.

Mark Magnier writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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