China admits to have killed 28 suspects on coal mine knife attack

China admits to have killed 28 suspects on coal mine knife attack

Chinese security forces maintain high security levels in Xinjiang (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

Chinese authorities admitted Friday to have killed 28 people suspected of taking part in a coordinated knife attack on a coal mine in the country’s western frontier, more than two months after news of the killings first emerged.

The report in Tianshan Net, a news portal run by Communist Party officials, is the first official confirmation of the bloody September 18 mine attack, which had been reported in some foreign media, but was kept tightly under wraps in China.

According to state media agency Xinhua, police in Xinjiang had "busted a terrorist gang" responsible for the bloodbath at the mine in Terek township, in the Xinjiang region.

The official account added that the extremist group “was directly guided by an overseas radical group” and led by two locals allegedly members of China’s Uighur minority, a Turkic-speaking community who are mostly Muslim and make up 40% of Xinjiang’s population.

Beijing has refused to name the “overseas extremist group” because it said investigations were still underway. It gave no details about the slain suspects or their supposed motivations, other than to say that they had been watching extremist videos since 2008.

Armed mobsters

In the attack by what Xinhua described as "armed mobsters," 11 civilians, two police officers and two para-police officers had been killed and 18 people injured.

The details of the 56-day operation were first revealed on Tuesday by Radio Free Asia (RFA), which is funded by the US government. According to the media outlet, Beijing had killed 17 people in the raid, including several women and children.

RFA was also the first to report on the mine attack, but claimed the death toll was much higher than the official account, with at least 50 people killed during the attack on the Sogan colliery.

The Xinjiang region has long been a strategic priority for China because of its natural resources, including the largest coal reserves in the country, and its proximity to even bigger energy sources in Central Asia. Xinjiang is also a key component of President Xi Jinping’s “New Silk Road” strategy, aimed at enhancing Eurasian infrastructure links.

Beijing strictly controls media access to Xinjiang, so reports are very difficult to verify.