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Terrorists attack China's Xinjiang region, despite stronger security

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, police officers stand guard near a blast site which has been cordoned off, in downtown Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Thursday, May 22, 2014. Attackers crashed a pair of vehicles and tossed explosives in an attack Thursday near an open air market in the capital of China's volatile northwestern region of Xinjiang, leaving an unknown number of people dead and injured, state media reported.
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, police officers stand guard near a blast site which has been cordoned off, in downtown Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Thursday, May 22, 2014. Attackers crashed a pair of vehicles and tossed explosives in an attack Thursday near an open air market in the capital of China's volatile northwestern region of Xinjiang, leaving an unknown number of people dead and injured, state media reported. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fifteen more people have died in a terrorist attack in China’s rebellious Xinjiang region, state media reported Saturday, despite Beijing’s recent efforts to beef up security in this far-west part of the country.

According to China’s Xinhua news service, 11 of the dead were “mobsters” who tossed explosive devices and attacked civilians with knives on a food market street in Shache County, south of Kashgar, at about 1:30 p.m. on Friday. Police on patrol nearby killed the 11 attackers, said Xinhua, and 14 people were injured.

Shache, part of Kashgar Prefecture, is the same county where 37 civilians were reportedly killed in an axe-and-knife attack on July 28. According to Xinhua, a local court sentenced 12 of the attackers to death in October. Another 15 were sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in October.

As with the reported attack in July, none of what Xinhua reported Saturday could be independently confirmed, including the assertion that “mobsters” were responsible. Foreign media are restricted from traveling freely in much of Xinjiang, an enormous region in western China that has been a home to years of ethnic riots and unrest.

Muslim Uighurs, who once were the majority in Xinjiang, have long resented Beijing’s rule and policies of assimilation. Over the last two years, Uighur militants have unleashed repeated attacks against police and civilians, not just in Xinjiang, but in other regions of China.

As is standard in state media, Xinhua’s report Saturday did not describe the alleged terrorists, not did it detail the ethnicity of those attacked. Xinhua said “a number of explosive devices, knives and axes were found at the scene,” and that those injured were receiving treatment at local hospitals.

The attacks follow numerous efforts by President Xi Jinping to shore up security in Xinjiang, a region of vast natural resources that is crucial to Xi’s plan to expand economic ties with Kazakhstan and other nations that border the region.

State media last week reported that Xinjiang was seeking 3,000 former troops from People's Liberation Army - people “of high political quality and military experience” - to supplement security in the region.

Also last week, the government issued a six-month report card on Xinjiang’s security campaign. The report said police had detained 334 suspects and prosecuted 294 cases of people sharing materials to promote terrorism, including videos and audio.

Following a series of deadly attacks in Xinjiang, President Xi last year sacked Gen. Peng Yong, from his job as chief of the People’s Liberation Army in the region. Despite Xi’s defenestration of Peng, the attacks in Xinjiang have continued, if not intensified in the last year.

In September, a series of bomb blasts killed 50 people in Luntai County, southwest of Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi, according to state media.

That attack came five months after state media reported that terrorists engaged in a pair of suicide car bombings that killed 31 people and injured more than 90 in Urumqi. That was the deadliest attack to date in Xinjiang, one that appeared aimed at striking fear into the hearts of Han Chinese, now a majority in Urumqi.

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