Attack in China kills 16 policemen

"Rioters" ram dump truck into patrol station, toss grenades, state-run news agency reports; 16 others wounded.

Chinese police 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Chinese police 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Two men rammed a dump truck into a group of jogging policemen and then tossed explosives into their barracks Monday, killing 16 officers and wounding others in China's restive Central Asian border province, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. The attack in Xinjiang province came just four days before the start of the Beijing Olympics - an event that has put security forces nationwide on alert and that at least one militant Muslim group has vowed to disrupt. Xinhua, citing local police, called it a "suspected terrorist attack." Xinhua said the attackers struck at 8 a.m., plowing into the policemen performing morning exercises outside the Yijin Hotel next to their paramilitary border patrol station in Kashgar city. After the truck hit an electrical pole, the pair jumped out, threw homemade explosives at the barracks and "also hacked the policemen with knives," the report said. Fourteen died on the spot and two others en route to a hospital while at least 16 others were wounded, Xinhua said. Police arrested the two attackers, one of them having been injured in the leg, the report said. Local government officials declined comment Monday. An officer in the district police department said an investigation was launched. The attack was one of the deadliest and most brazen in recent years in Xinjiang province, where local Muslims have waged a sporadically violent rebellion against Chinese rule. Kashgar, or Kashi in Chinese, is a tourist city that was once an oasis trading center on the Silk Road caravan routes and lies 80 miles from the border with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. Chinese security forces have been on edge for months, citing a number of foiled plots by Muslim separatists and a series of bombings around China in the run-up to the Olympics, which open Friday. Last week, a senior military commander said radical Muslims who are fighting for what they call an independent East Turkistan in Xinjiang posed the single greatest threat to the games. Xinhua said that Xinjiang's police department earlier received intelligence reports about possible terrorist attacks between Aug. 1 and 8 by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. The movement is the name of a group that China and the US say is a terrorist organization, but Chinese authorities often use the label for a broad number of violent separatist groups. In Xinjiang, a local Turkic Muslim people, the Uighurs (WEE'-gurs), have chafed under Chinese rule, fully imposed after the communists took power nearly 60 years ago. Occasionally violent attacks in the 1990s brought an intense response from Beijing, which has stationed crack paramilitary units in the area and clamped down on unregistered mosques and religious schools that officials said were inciting militant action. Uighurs have complained that the suppression has aggravated tensions in Xinjiang, making Uighurs feel even more threatened by an influx of Chinese and driving some to flee to Pakistan and other areas where they then have readier access to extremist ideologies. One militant group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, pledged in a video that surfaced on the Internet last month to "target the most critical points related to the Olympics." The group is believed to be based across the border in Pakistan, with some of its core members having received training from al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban, according to terrorism experts. Terrorism analysts and Chinese authorities, however, have said that with more than 100,000 soldiers and police guarding Beijing and other Olympic co-host cities, terrorists were more likely to attack less-protected areas.