BEIJING (AFP) ― China has arrested more than 380 suspects in the first month of a yearlong crackdown on “terrorism,” media said Monday as authorities grapple to curb rising violence stemming from mainly Muslim Xinjiang.
A total of 32 “terrorist” gangs were broken up as part of the campaign launched after a deadly attack on a market in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, state broadcaster China Central Television said.
Assailants in two vehicles killed 39 people last month, one of several high-profile attacks blamed on militants from Xinjiang. In recent months these have spread beyond the far-western region and targeted ordinary citizens rather than government or security personnel.
The day after the Urumqi market attack Beijing announced that “terrorists and extremists will be hunted down and punished” as part of a year-long campaign, which also targets “gun and explosive manufacturing dens and terrorist training camps.”
A total of 264 devices capable of detonating 3.15 tons of explosives were also confiscated, the report said.
Xinjiang is the resource-rich homeland of China’s mostly Muslim Uighur minority, and much of the violence stems from ethnic tensions.
CCTV’s report did not detail the ethnicities of those arrested.
China executed 13 people last week for “terrorist attacks” in the violence-racked region as three others were condemned to death over a fiery car crash at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Authorities in Xinjiang also sentenced 55 people for offences including terrorism at a mass sentencing in May.
In the most recent confirmed flare-up of violence, police shot dead 13 people Saturday after they drove into a police building in a county outside Hotan and set off an explosion.
Exile groups say cultural oppression and intrusive security measures imposed by the Chinese government are the main causes of tension, along with immigration by China’s Han ethnic majority, which they say has led to decades of discrimination and economic inequality.
Beijing says the government has helped improve living standards in Xinjiang and developed its economy.