The death toll in a knife attack orchestrated by alleged “separatists” at a coal mine in northwestern China’s troubled Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has climbed to at least 50 people—including five police officers—with as many as 50 injured, according to local security officials who say nine suspects are on the run.
The attack occurred on Sept. 18, when a group of knife-wielding suspects set upon security guards at the gate of the Sogan Colliery in Aksu (in Chinese, Akesu) prefecture’s Bay (Baicheng) county, before targeting the mine owner’s residence and a dormitory for workers.
When police officers arrived at the mine in Terek township to control the situation, the attackers rammed their vehicles using trucks loaded down with coal, sources said.
Three sources, including a ruling Communist Party cadre from a local township government, told RFA’s Uyghur Service in recent days that at least 50 people were killed and as many as 50 injured in the attack—with most casualties suffered by the mine’s largely majority Han Chinese workers.
“The damage of the attack was very severe—that is why we are controlling [the flow of] information about the incident so strictly, lest we frighten Han migrants in Aksu,” said the cadre, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Last week, sources had estimated that at least 40 people were either killed or injured in the incident, including police officers, security guards, mine owners and managers, and attackers.
Other sources within the ethnic Uyghur exile communities in Sweden and Turkey have since put the number of dead as high as 110 and said the worker dormitory was the focus of the attack, although these accounts could not be independently verified by RFA.
Ekber Hashim, a police officer who inspected the mine’s dormitory following the incident, told RFA that “nearly all the workers who were not on shift at the time were killed or injured.”
“Some workers were sleeping while others were preparing to work when the attackers raided the building after killing the security guards,” he said.
The Sogan Colliery, consisting of three separate coal mine shafts, maintains a six-story dormitory to house its 300-400 workers—around 90 percent of whom are Han Chinese, according to official sources.
At least five policemen were also killed in the attack, including Terek township chief Wu Feng, 45, and officers Xiao Hu, 25; Zakirjan, 28; and Zayirjan Kurban, 27. The fifth officer has yet to be identified.
An auxiliary officer from the neighboring Bulung township police department told RFA that Terek township deputy police chief Kurbanjan and his assistant “survived the incident by throwing themselves into the river next to the colliery.”
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