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“People from different ethnic groups, especially Uygurs and Hans, have been coexisting peacefully in Xinjiang for centuries,” said Jume Tahir, a member of the standing committee of the Xinjiang Islamic Association and the imam of the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, which is the largest of its kind in China.

“A handful of religious extremists and terrorists will never disrupt the interdependent relationship that exists between Uygurs and Hans.”

The 71-year-old religious leader said he feels “very angry and regretful” about the two terrorist attacks that occurred on the weekend in downtown Kashgar, a famed city on the ancient Silk Road in Xinjiang.

At least 14 people were killed then and 42 others wounded.

“The two incidents did not happen at random but had been planned,” he said. “This group of religious extremists and terrorists should be strongly condemned since they conspired with terrorist camps in foreign countries and attacked innocent civilians.”

On Saturday night, two people hijacked a truck after killing the driver and drove it into a crowded street. Once there, the suspects jumped out and, wielding knives, hacked passers-by at random.

The next afternoon, a different group of assailants set fire to a restaurant and again began attacking people with knives in downtown Kashgar.

The police opened fire at the scene and shot five suspects dead. Two others were killed after a pursuit on Monday.

Local authorities classified the attack on Sunday as an act of terrorism and blamed it on a group of religious extremists led by militants who are part of the “East Turkistan Islamic Movement” and were trained in Pakistan.

Local police officers told the Xinhua News Agency that no evidence has been found to link the two attacks but that the attack on Saturday was also carefully planned over a long period of time.

Jume Tahir said the violent attacks, which “contradict the Islamic spirit of peace and stability”, were a sign to religious leaders in Xinjiang that secessionist activities have not ceased in Kashgar.

“We must remain vigilant and do better at jiejing, the interpretation of Islamic classics, for Muslims in Xinjiang,” he said.

“We, the imams, will continue to look into and interpret Islamic classics, especially in how they relate to stability and ethnic unity.”

Arslan Yekya, director of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau in Kashgar, said no religious clerics were involved in the attacks.

“(The suspects) are nothing more than terrorists, and we must punish them severely,” the official said.

Adiljan Haj Kerim, vice-president of the China Islamic Association, pledged to do more to compose and teach the “new Wa’z”, a means of promoting the true spirit of the Quran and of eradicating any predilection toward terrorism and extremism that may exist among Muslims.

Wa’z, an Arabic word meaning persuasion, is a traditional way that imams have used the Quran to persuade their followers to show mercy to others and to conduct themselves properly.

The autonomous region is home to more than 10 million Muslims and about 25,000 mosques, according to the China Islamic Association.

Meanwhile, Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xinjiang government, has called for Xinjiang residents to come together in the aftermath of the attacks.

During a visit to civilians injured in the assaults, the chairman vowed to severely crack down on those who instigate such violence.

He told two victims recuperating in a local hospital, Chen Wei and Chen Fen’e, that the government will spare no effort in its fight against violence and that terrorist suspects will be severely punished.

In an inspection of security forces, Nur Bekri told army personnel and armed police officers that they should remember “how difficult anti-separatism work is”.

Shops on Kashgar’s main commercial street, where the attack on Sunday was carried out, were all closed. Fully-armed police officers, some of them in riot squads, patrolled roads throughout the city.

“We are really worried,” said Wu Congkuan, a restaurant owner. “My restaurant is closed and my employees have been sent home on a break.”

Despite his fears, Wu said he thinks Kashgar is secure.

Witnesses of the weekend attacks said the assailants first killed the owner of a restaurant that sold spicy chicken and noodles, a local delicacy, and then burned down the restaurant.

Ismailjang, a young Uygur man in Kashgar, said people should perform good deeds during Ramadan and that he was sad the terrorist attacks had occurred before the holy month, which began on Monday.

“Islam doesn’t incite believers to kill people and do bad things,” Ismailjang said, blaming religious extremism and separatists for the terrorist attacks.

Xinjiang has barely recovered from a deadly riot in July 2009, which killed nearly 200 people in Urumqi, the regional capital.

The government blamed overseas groups for inciting the riots.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

Source : China Daily

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