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Foreign Ministry rejects US claims on Xinjiang

By Cui Jia in Shanshan, Xinjiang  (China Daily)

10:10, June 29, 2013

China strongly opposes claims by the United States that it has been discriminating against and imposing restrictions on Uygurs and Muslims, in the wake of a recent terror attack in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

At least 24 people, including 16 Uygurs, were killed by mobs in a terror attack that took place in Lukqun township on Wednesday morning, the Xinhua News Agency reported late Thursday night.

Eleven attackers were killed.

"We are sorry to see the US government making comments about the incident and even criticizing China's ethnic and religious policies before learning the facts," said Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during a regular news briefing in Beijing.

She said that the US has also been the victim of terrorism and should know its danger.

China has always protected the freedom of religion under the law, she said.

The attack happened about 5:50 am in the township in Turpan prefecture's Shanshan county, about 250 km from the regional capital of Urumqi.

The attackers killed 24 people, including two police officers, and 21 police officers and civilians were injured.

Several terrorists attacked the police station, the township government and a construction site next to the government building. They also set fire to police vehicles.

Eleven attackers were shot dead at the scene and four were arrested after being injured.

Hua said it is still unclear if foreign forces are behind the attack because the case is still being investigated.

The police station and government building, which were about 1 km apart on the same side of the main street of the township, were covered with metal barriers on Thursday, but the burn marks on the building were still visible.

Public security authorities are still investigating the incident, which is the deadliest terror attack in Xinjiang since the July 5, 2009 riot in Urumqi that left 197 dead.

Rocked by the attack, most of the shops in the township were closed on Thursday. Wumar Sedek, 46, was talking about the incident with the owner of a grocery store that carried on business as usual.

"Such a horrible attack has never happened in this town before and it's truly unexpected," the grape grower from a nearby village said, while watching investigators go in and out of the sealed police station.

"I still can't fathom why did they (attackers) would do such a horrible thing."

Lukqun has a population of more than 30,000. Like Wumar, many grow grapes and melons for a living. It is also a popular stop for tourists because of the ruins of an ancient kingdom and performances of refined classic Uygur music.

People and local officials fear that the incident might hurt the tourism industry.

The number of tourists coming to Kashgar fell more than 60 percent year-on-year in May, because of a similar terror attack in late April, Wang Zhiyong, deputy commissioner of the prefecture, said earlier this month.

On April 23, 15 people including police officers and community workers were killed by terrorists in Selibuya township, Bachu county. Six attackers were shot dead.

Police said 25 suspects carried out the attack and were planning a bigger attack in Kashgar.

Police found 20 explosive devices, a large amount of bomb-making equipment, knives, combat training material and illegal extremist religious pamphlets.

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