A gang attack in Xinjiang left dozens of people dead Monday in an incident China said may be another terror incident in the mostly Muslim far western region.
An initial investigation into the incident “suggested that it could have been another terrorist attack,” the Xinhua state news agency said in a news release Tuesday. Xinjiang, an officially "autonomous" province that is home to ethnic Uighur Muslims, has experienced an increase in attacks and clashes in recent years, including a confrontation between Uighurs and police in June 2013 that led to 35 deaths.
Xinhua said Monday’s attack “aims to destabilize the region and spread fear and hatred, as did similar recent attacks.” The news agency didn’t say how the mob carried out the attack, but the Associated Press reported that the attackers used knives and targeted a police station, government buildings and vehicles. China’s state news agency said police responded by shooting the assailants, killing dozens of attackers. It claimed the gunfire “was decisive and well-justified. It prevented more civilian casualties, both from Han [Chinese] and Uighur ethnic groups.”
The mob attack occurred a day before Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Xinhua said the incident “is against the spirit of Ramadan,” and that the attackers “were committing blasphemy against Islam, ‘the religion of peace.’” In fact, Chinese authorities severely repressed observance of the month of prayer and fasting.
The incident also coincided with a trade fair that the Chinese government said “was widely expected to restore some of the dented investment confidence after previous violence,” adding that “the latest attack is doomed to hurt the economy.”