According to reports from the military’s top newspaper, China’s armed forces used a flamethrower to flush 10 so-called terrorists from a cave in the western Xinjiang region.
The official People’s Liberation Army Daily published a graphic account of the operation, in which Chinese troops hunted down what Beijing called foreign-led extremists, writes Michael Martina for Reuters. China continues to battle separatist forces in the west of the country.
China uses flamethrower on group that attacked coal mine
On Friday Chinese officials acknowledged that troops had killed 28 members of an armed group that attacked a coal mine in Aksu in September. Although the incident was reported by Radio Free Asia around two months ago, China did not officially recognize the operation.
The account of the operation has not been independently verified, but the PLA Daily claims that security forces hunted the group into the mountains “like eagles discovering their prey.” The report claims that they tried to use flash grenades and tear gas to force the group into the open, but when they remained inside the cave the troops used a flamethrower.
After the flamethrower was used the attackers charged the troops but were “completely annihilated.” Xinjiang is an energy-rich province which borders Central Asia, home to the Muslim Uighur people. Beijing claims that Islamist militants and separatists are a serious threat to security in the region, where hundreds of people have lost their lives in violent episodes over the past few years.
Beijing implicated in possible rights abuses in Xinjiang
According to human rights observers, China has consistently failed to demonstrate the existence of a militant group engaging in violent attacks against the government. They claim that problems have arisen due to government controls on culture and religious observance of the Muslim Uighur.
Although Beijing categorically denies accusations of human rights abuses, verification is difficult as foreign reporters are subject to tight controls if they want to visit the region. Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile group the World Uyghur Congress, claimed that “the Paris attacks gave China a political excuse to brazenly use flamethrowers to clamp down on unarmed Uighurs who have no just legal protection and who seek to avoid arrest.”
China has tried to emphasize the importance of anti-militant campaigns in Xinjiang as part of the worldwide struggle against terrorism, although Western politicians have been wary of showing their support due to potential human rights abuses.