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15 dead in 'terrorist attack' in China's Xinjiang: govt
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Feb 14, 2014

Pakistan govt, militants agree to shun violence
Islamabad (AFP) Feb 14, 2014 - Pakistani government and Taliban negotiators Friday expressed concern over a wave of deadly attacks in the country, agreeing that both militants and security forces should refrain from actions which undermine ongoing peace efforts.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed credit for a bomb blast that killed 12 policemen on a bus in the port city of Karachi on Thursday, the latest in a series of near-daily attacks since the government called for peace talks with militants to end their seven-year insurgency.

"Both the committees expressed deep grief and regret over anti-peace activities and declared that such incidents would have a negative impact on the peace efforts," a joint statement said after government and Taliban committees met on Friday.

"Referring to the recent incident in Karachi, the government committee adopted the stance that it would become difficult to continue the peace talks when anti-peace activities continue," it said.

"Therefore the Taliban must be asked to make an announcement that they are stopping all kinds of anti-peace activities and implementation of this announcement should be ensured," the statement quoted the government side as saying.

It said that the Taliban committee "agreed" to the demand and asked the government to also make an announcement that it will not take any action which would create unrest.

"For lasting peace no side should use force," the statement quoted the Taliban side as saying.

The chief of the Taliban committee, Maulana Samiul Haq, has called for a session of religious leaders on Saturday to "take the clerics into confidence" regarding the peace negotiations.

Pakistani troops have been fighting for years against homegrown insurgents in the tribal belt, which Washington considers the main hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.

Nearly 7,000 people have been killed in the TTP insurgency since it began in 2007, according to an AFP tally.

The start of 2014 has seen a surge in militant violence with more than 130 people killed.

An air force bombardment of TTP hideouts in North Waziristan led many to believe a major military offensive was imminent until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the peace talks.

Stability in nuclear-armed Pakistan is seen as important to neighbouring Afghanistan, where US-led NATO troops are pulling out after more than a decade of war.

Washington has said it is watching the talks with the Taliban closely. It has long been pushing Pakistan to take action against militants using Pakistan's tribal areas as a base to attack NATO forces across the border.

A total of 15 people died in an "attack" in China's Xinjiang region on Friday, with eight "terrorists" shot dead by police and three blowing themselves up, having killed four people, authorities said.

The incident in Aksu prefecture is the latest violence in the restive region home to mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs.

"Eight terrorists were killed by police and three by their own suicide bomb during a terrorist attack Friday afternoon," the Xinhua official news agency said, citing police.

Riding motorbikes and cars carrying LNG cylinders, the group approached police officers near a park in Wushi county as they prepared to go on patrol, it said.

The Tianshan web portal, which is run by the Xinjiang government, said that as well as the 11 attackers, two police and two passersby were killed, and one assailant detained. Photos posted on the site showed a charred police van and jeep.

Xinjiang police and information officers reached by phone declined to comment to AFP. Wushi government and police officials could not be reached.

Aksu, in the far west of Xinjiang near the border with Kyrgyzstan, was the scene of triple explosions in late January that killed at least three people, according to Tianshan. Police shot dead six people soon afterwards.

Xinhua, citing a police investigation, described those blasts as "organised, premeditated terrorist attacks".

The vast and resource-rich region of Xinjiang has for years been hit by occasional unrest carried out by Uighurs, which rights groups say is driven by cultural oppression, intrusive security measures and immigration by Han Chinese.

Authorities routinely attribute such incidents to "terrorists", and argue that China faces a violent separatist movement in the area motivated by religious extremism and linked to foreign terrorist groups.

"Terrorist attacks" totalled 190 in 2012, "increasing by a significant margin from 2011", Xinhua said, citing regional authorities.

But experts question the strength of any resistance movement, and information in the area is hard to independently verify.

A spokesman for the overseas World Uyghur Congress, Dilshat Rexit, blamed the latest incident on what he called China's violent policies.

"Chinese armed officers' violent rooting out and provocation are the reason for Uighur resistance," he said in an emailed statement.

"The so-called terrorism is China's political excuse of directly shooting dead those who take a stand."

The most serious recent incident took place in Turpan last June, leaving at least 35 people dead.

In October three family members from Xinjiang died when they drove a car into crowds of tourists in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the symbolic heart of the Chinese state, killing two, before the vehicle burst into flames, according to authorities.

China's top security official Meng Jianzhu said days later that the attackers had "behind-the-scenes supporters" belonging to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) based outside the country.

The United States and the United Nations both categorised ETIM as a terrorist organisation in 2002, during a period of increased US-Chinese cooperation following the 9/11 attacks.

But the group's strength and links to global terrorism are murky, and some experts say China exaggerates its threat to justify tough security measures in Xinjiang.

Last month police arrested the prominent Beijing-based Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti, a rare outspoken critic of the government's policies towards the ethnic group, accusing him of being involved in separatist activities.

Xinjiang -- which covers a sixth of China's territory -- contains 30 percent of China's onshore oil and gas deposits and 40 percent of its coal, according to the official website

As of 2011 Uighurs made up 47 percent of the population and Han Chinese 38 percent, according to official Xinjiang figures. In 1949 by contrast Han, China's dominant majority, accounted for six percent.

The region has seen tremendous economic growth, but critics argue that the development mainly benefits the influx of Han Chinese.

Clashes involving Uighurs and Han in the region's capital of Urumqi in 2009 left around 200 people dead.


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