BEIJING—China blamed Muslim extremists for a deadly attack on Sunday in its northwestern Xinjiang region, saying the assailants’ leaders were trained in camps in Pakistan.
The government in Kashgar, a city near the border with Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan, said that an “initial probe” had shown that the heads of the group that carried out Sunday’s attack, in which 11 people died, had received explosives and firearms training from Pakistan-based camps of the group East Turkestan Islamic Movement before entering Xinjiang to organize the attacks.
The city government said in a statement Monday that its information was based on a confession by a suspect in the attacks. It also said that four suspects had been shot dead at the scene of the attacks Sunday, and a fifth had died in the hospital from gunshot wounds.
The government on Monday also issued arrest warrants for two other suspects who it said fled the scene of Sunday’s attack. It identified them as 29-year-old Memtieli Tiliwaldi and 34-year-old Turson Hasan, and said both were members of Xinjiang’s indigenous Uighur ethnic minority. The police have offered 100,000 yuan, or about $15,540, for information leading to their arrests.
Sunday’s attack came a day after nine people were killed, including one suspected assailant, and 27 injured in a separate attack in Kashgar. The government’s statement Monday didn’t assign responsibility for that attack.
The weekend’s incidents in Kashgar were part of a sharp escalation in violence in recent weeks in Xinjiang, where Uighurs have long chafed at Communist Party rule. Uighur groups have for decades waged a sporadic, sometimes violent, struggle for independence from Beijing, which they accuse of plundering the oil-rich region’s resources, suppressing religious freedoms, and swamping it with ethnic Han Chinese migrants.
The latest attacks came just under two weeks after police shot dead 14 Uighur rioters in the city of Hotan, also in Xinjiang, after they attacked a police station, setting fire to it and killing two police officers and two civilians, according to state media. It also comes as party leaders grapple with resurgent ethnic unrest in recent months in neighboring Inner Mongolia and continuing tensions in Tibet.
Monday’s statement said the assailants in Sunday’s attack set off an explosion that triggered a fire in a restaurant, then started attacking civilians with eight different knives. Six civilians were also killed, and 15 people injured, including three police. The 12 civilians wounded were members of China’s majority Han ethnicity, the statement said. The government had earlier said that three people were killed.
Beijing regards Uighur separatists as part of a terrorist organization with links to al Qaeda, and has courted international support for its campaign against them. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, has been designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government, as well as by Beijing.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency on Monday quoted Pan Zhiping, a researcher with the Central Asia Studies Institute under the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that ETIM is based somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Xinhua quoted him and other experts as saying that ETIM has traditionally trained members for suicide bombings and car bombings, but recently has used the Internet to spread bomb-making information across borders.