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Beijing Olympics security fears as terror attack kills 16 Chinese policemen
08-04-2008, 09:39 AM,
Beijing Olympics security fears as terror attack kills 16 Chinese policemen
Quote:The seemingly well-coordinated assault on a local border police headquarters in the predominantly Muslim province of Xinjiang appears to be China's most serious act of political terror in more than a decade.

Ten days ago, a Muslim group which said it was fighting for the liberation of the region posted a video to a security website threatening to make the "most critical points of the Olympics" a target.

According to state media, policemen from the station in Kashgar were doing their morning exercises when a lorry containing two men drove up. They threw two grenades into the exercise yard, and then followed up slashing at the officers with knives.

Fourteen police died on the spot, and two more on the way to hospital. Another 16 were injured, according to the reports. Both attackers were apprehended.

"The raid was suspected as a terrorist attack," a police spokesman said. The incident was over by 8am local time.

Xinjiang is home to the Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group related to the Uzbeks. It is neighbour to several central Asian states, while Kashgar in the south-west of the province is close to the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The region briefly declared independence at the state of East Turkestan in the 1940s, and many Uighurs resent both Chinese rule and the huge influx of ethnic Han Chinese settlers in recent decades. This led to protests, riots and a number of bomb attacks especially on buses in the 1990s.

The authorities in Beijing have repeatedly warned that terrorism is a major threat to the Games, and have staged a series of raids on Uighurs both in Xinjiang and elsewhere in the country to break up what they said were "terror cells".

The group which posted the terror video, narrated by a "Commander Seyfullah", claimed to be the Turkestan Islamic Party, which some believe is related to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. ETIM was put on a United States terror blacklist in 2002, and is still accused by China of being connected to al-Qaeda.

Independent security experts say if ETIM still exists as an entity it is small, with a few dozen members, though some adherents are believed to have received terrorist training in Pakistan.

A spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee said it had confidence in Beijing's security preparations.
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