BEIJING (AFP) â€” Chinese police killed five Muslims in its far northwest who were planning to wage a “holy war” against the nation’s majority Han population, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.
The five were killed on Tuesday when police raided their hide-out in Urumqi, the capital of the Muslim-populated Xinjiang region, Xinhua reported, citing local authorities.
Fifteen people, all Muslim Uighurs, were at the apartment and all had been wielding knives when police conducted the raid, the report said, without mentioning any heavier weapons such as guns.
“The suspected criminals that police killed and nabbed… were from a ‘holy war’ training group,” Xinhua said, citing an Urumqi police spokesman.
China has repeatedly warned of a terrorist threat from Xinjiang, which borders Afghanistan and central Asia, with police alleging earlier this year they had smashed a group that was planning to attack the Beijing Olympics.
However human rights groups and other critics allege the government has fabricated or exaggerated the terrorist threat as an excuse to crush all forms of dissent there.
Many among the region’s Muslim Turkic-speaking Uighur majority say they have been subjected to 60 years of repressive communist Chinese rule, and have complained of an increased security crackdown ahead of next month’s Games.
The Xinhua report on Wednesday said the Uighurs, 10 men and five women, threatened to “perish together” when cornered by police and shouted “sacrifice for Allah”.
“After police used tear gas on the premise, a roomful of people tried to break out, waving knives and injuring one policeman,” he said.
“The policemen were then forced to open fire, killing five on the spot and injuring two,” it said, adding the others had been detained.
“The suspects confessed they had all received training on the launching of a ‘holy war.’ Their aim was to kill Han people, the most populous ethnic group in China whom they took as heretics, and found their own state,” Xinhua said.
Police found more than 30 knives at the apartment in which they were hiding, the biggest of which was 50 centimetres (20 inches), according to Xinhua.
When contacted by AFP, Urumqi police referred all media inquiries to the regional police headquarters. However the Xinjiang police refused to comment.