Chinese forces 'used flamethrowers' in Xinjiang operation

Armed Chinese soldiers march on patrol as a Uighur man crosses the street in Urumqi on July 15, 2009 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Chinese authorities say they are battling "foreign terrorists" in Xinjiang

A Chinese military newspaper has given details of a raid in Xinjiang province against suspected militants.

The People's Liberation Army Daily said that, at one point, flamethrowers were used to flush out militants hiding in a cave, who were then shot.

It said they were behind a "brutal" attack on the public, which may refer to an attack on a mine in September in which officials said 16 people died.

Xinjiang, often hit by unrest, is home to a Uighur ethnic minority.

The PLA Daily said special forces tracked the militants to their mountain hideout "like eagles discovering their prey".

Police tried to drive the suspects out with tear gas and stun grenades, before an officer ordered the use of flamethrowers, the article said.

China strictly controls media access to Xinjiang so reports are difficult to verify.

It is thought the latest report may refer to militants linked to the incident at the Sogan colliery in Asku on 18 September.

The US government-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA) was the first to report the attack and said at least 50 people were killed.

Earlier this month, RFA said 17 suspects from three families, including women and children, had been killed in the police operation in response to the mine attack.

China says "foreign terrorists" are behind the violence in the region. Hundreds of people have died in attacks over the past three years.

Ethnic Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim, say Beijing's repression of their religious and cultural customs is provoking the violence.

Uighurs and Xinjiang

  • Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
  • They make up about 45% of the region's population; 40% are Han Chinese
  • China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan
  • Since then, there has been large-scale immigration of Han Chinese
  • Uighurs fear erosion of traditional culture

Who are the Uighurs?

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