Fifteen people were killed and 14 others injured when militants armed with knives and bombs attacked crowds at a food street in China's restive northwestern Xinjiang province, official media reported on Saturday.
The attack occurred on Friday at a food street in Shache county at 1:30 pm (local time) when ‘mobsters’ threw bombs and attacked people with knives, state-run Xinhua news agency reported adding that police patrolling nearby killed 11 of the attackers. In all, 15 people were killed while 14 others were injured, the report said.
A number of explosive devices, knives and axes were found at the scene. The injured have been rushed to hospitals. The attack was similar to the one carried out in July this year at Shache, Kashgar Prefecture, in which militants along with a large number of locals armed with knives and axes attacked a police station and other places killing 37 people.
A local court had sentenced 12 of the attackers to death and 15 others to death with a two-year reprieve. Kashgar borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, as well as a brief stretch of Afghanistan.
Xinjiang, home to over 11 million ethnic Uygur Muslims, has been restive for several years due conflict between locals and migrant Han Chinese from other provinces. It has experienced a spate of violent attacks in the last few years which China blames on the Al Qaeda-backed East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
The violence in Xinjiang and parts of the country has led to scores of deaths. Friday’s attack came as China is set to enforce a new regulation prohibiting people from wearing or forcing others to wear clothes or logos associated with religious extremism.
The revised regional regulation on religious affairs is the first in the country to target religious extremism, state-run China Daily reported. The new rules are to be mplemented from January 1, next year and are intended to protect legal religious activities.
"An increasing number of problems involving religious affairs have emerged in Xinjiang," Ma Mingcheng, deputy director of the Xinjiang People's Congress and director of its legislative affairs committee said.
"The old regulation, which was passed 20 years ago, just cannot handle new situations, such as the spreading of terrorist or extreme religious materials via the Internet or social media, and using religion to interfere in people's lives," he said.
Religious extremism has become the main threat to stability in Xinjiang and has led to an increasing number of terrorist attacks in and outside the region, the daily report said.
Local authorities will be given the right to ask people not to wear clothes or logos linked to religious extremism, though the types of clothes and logos are not specified, it said.
The regulation prohibits people from distributing and viewing videos about jihad, or holy war, religious extremism and terrorism in or outside religious venues, and requires religious leaders to report such activities to the local authorities and police.
People will not be allowed to practice religion in government offices, public schools, businesses or institutions. Religious activities will have to take place in registered venues.
The regulation says people should not use religion to interfere with the judicial system or wedding and funeral traditions, the report said. Li Juan, president of the XinjiangPoliceAcademy, said most of the measures already introduced to combat religious extremism are based on government directives that have no legal force.
Law enforcement officers sometimes handle religious issues inappropriately, causing conflict between the government and local people, he said.
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