2012 Yecheng attack
|2012 Yecheng attack|
|Location||Yecheng, Xinjiang, China|
|Date||February 28, 2012 |
6:00 pm – (UTC+08:00)
|Stabbing into a crowd|
|Deaths||24 (15 pedestrians, 8 attackers, 1 police)|
|18 (14 pedestrians, 4 police)|
|Perpetrators||Abudukeremu Mamuti group|
The 2012 Yecheng attack occurred on February 28, 2012 in Yecheng, Xinjiang, a remote town on China's border with Pakistan. Details of the attack are disputed: according to Chinese government reports and court documents, at around 6 p.m. that day, a group of eight Uyghur men led by religious extremist Abudukeremu Mamuti attacked pedestrians with axes and knives on Happiness Road. Local police fought with the attackers, ultimately killing all and capturing Mamuti. State-run media reported that one police officer died and four police were injured, while 15 pedestrians died from Mamuti's assault and 14 more civilians were injured. Chinese officials characterized the event as a "terrorist attack."
Exiled Uyghur groups offered conflicting accounts of the clash, which they say was precipitated by increased ethnic and religious restrictions and widespread arbitrary arrests by authorities. Citing unidentified local residents, the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress said that the attacks targeted security personnel—not civilians—and that fighting resulted in the deaths of ten Uyghurs, seven police officers, and five others. Radio Free Asia reported that a group of Uyghurs had killed three ethnic Han, and that police killed 12 young Uyghurs.
Mamuti was convicted of terrorism and homicide-related crimes on March 26, in a trial that Uyghur groups overseas said did not comply with international legal standards.
The oasis city of Yecheng (also known as Kargilik), in Kashgar Prefecture, is 150 miles from China's border with Pakistan. Chinese border police have had difficulty asserting control over its border towns with Pakistan, as militants cross the porous border in between attacks. Despite its strategic location, Yecheng has long been remote and isolated from the rest of Xinjiang. Seven days before the attack, however, authorities opened a $578 million highway connecting Kashgar to Yecheng.
Yecheng is impoverished compared to the rest of Xinjiang, and itself experienced violent unrest in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1998, Yecheng saw the U.S.-designated terrorist East Turkestan Islamic Movement blow up a natural gas pipeline and injure three people, as well as several explosions, according to authorities. Since 2009, according to Professor Barry Sautman, attacks in Xinjiang have become "more... spectacular, like storming police stations and attacks on police". Generally, Chinese authorities trace these attacks to Muslim hardliners who want independence from China, trained indigenously or in Pakistan. Yecheng is located between two cities which have seen Uyghur militant attacks in 2011, Kashgar and Hotan. In December, police rescued hostages held by suspected terrorists in Pishan, another remote border town. Xinjiang authorities aimed to recruit 8,000 extra police for 2012 for extra security before a new government is formed at the 18th National Congress.
According to subsequent trial documents, on the morning of February 28, a Uyghur man named Abudukeremu Mamuti gathered eight followers in his house, who he had been grooming by preaching Islamic fundamentalism to them. Mamuti distributed axes, knives, and details to members of his group about the attack they were to carry out, on sites that they had already chosen and checked. At 6:00 p.m that evening, the group of nine started stabbing people in a crowd on Happiness Road (Chinese: 幸福路; pinyin: Xìngfú Lù) in Yecheng. Happiness Road is mostly populated by ethnic Han, and most of the victims were Han, although some victims were Uyghur. The regional government declined to identify the ethnicity of the attackers, but a police officer at the scene told Agence France-Presse that all of the attackers were Uyghur. 13 pedestrians were killed immediately and 16 were injured, two of whom died later from the injuries. Responding police shot seven of Mamuti's group dead, and also fatally injured another attacker, while sustaining one death and four injuries of their own.
Security was increased in Yecheng, as police blockaded points of entry and exit and apprehended suspects. Dilxat Raxit, the leader of the pro-Xinjiang independence World Uyghur Congress, described the attack as Uyghurs "using primitive fighting methods" to fight "China's systematic repression". He claimed that police were the intended target of the attacks, because they had been arbitrarily arresting Uyghurs to fulfill quotas. Hong Lei (洪磊), for the Chinese foreign ministry, said that the assailants deliberately targeted civilians and called them "terrorists". At the same time, Hong cautioned against overblowing the incident, portraying the militants as few in number. On March 26, Mamuti was publicly tried in the Intermediate people's court of Kashgar Prefecture. The court convicted him of "organizing and leading a terrorist group, and intentional homicide", and sentenced him to death with possibility of appeal. Uyghur separatist leader Rebiya Kadeer decried the trial as unfair, and claimed that capital punishment is "used arbitrarily against Uyghurs who dare to stand up for their basic human rights". Zhang Chunxian, the CPC Party chief for Xinjiang, hailed the sentence, saying "No mercy will be shown to those guilty of violent terrorist attacks in Xinjiang".
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