BEIJING - China said Wednesday, January 4, that seven people killed by police in the Muslims-majority region of Xinjiang had been trying to leave the country to wave holy war.
"The people in question were trying to cross the border to go overseas for the purposes of so-called holy war," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing, Reuters reported.
"They kidnapped some herders, who took the opportunity to escape and tell the public security authorities, who demanded (the kidnappers) abandon their plans."
Seven people were shot dead and four were wounded and caught by Chinese police in Pishan County in the far southern party of Xinjiang last week.
Authorities said a policeman was killed during an operation to free hostages taken by the kidnappers.
"While this was happening they cruelly murdered some Chinese policemen and also caused many injuries. This is very obviously a violent terrorist incident," Hong said.
The Chinese spokesman, however, declined to comment on whether the kidnappers had links with Pakistan.
China has in the past accused Uighur Muslims of working with supporters in Pakistan to plan attacks in Xinjiang.
Pishan is a heavily Uighur area of Xinjiang.
Exiled Uighur groups had blamed the incident on the oppressive Chinese policies in the Muslims-majority region.
"This is incident was not an accident," Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the Stockholm-based World Uighur Congress, said.
"It is a direct result from the Chinese crackdown on Uighurs.
It has become unbearable for Uighurs there to accept the oppression and current rule from the Chinese government."
Xinjiang has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of massive security crackdowns by Chinese authorities.
Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of religious repression against Uighur Muslims, a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million, in Xinjiang in the name of counter terrorism.
Muslims accuses the government of settling millions of ethnic Han in their territory with the ultimate goal of obliterating its identity and culture.
Xinjiang has been beset by ethnic strife and sometimes violent unrest.
In July 2009, at least 197 people were killed in angry protests by Uighurs in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang.
Xinjiang sits astride south and central Asia. China sees it as a bulwark in this volatile part of the world, making it all the more jumpy about unrest.
In September, courts in Xinjiang sentenced four people to death for violence in two cities over the summer in which 32 people were killed.The government blamed the incidents in Kashgar and Hotan -- both in the majority Uighur southern part of Xinjiang -- on religious hardliners and separatists who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan for their people.