China says man tried to seize weapons in Xinjiang

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Associated Press

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 8:04 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 17 at 9:34 AM

BEIJING (AP) — A youth killed by police in the restive Xinjiang region last weekend was trying to seize weapons, China said Thursday in a state media report that said at least one person who spread a sharply different account of the youth's death would be jailed.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday that 17-year-old Abdubasit Ablimit tried twice to seize weapons from police at a checkpoint Saturday night in Aksu prefecture. It said he ignored warning shots and then was fired upon and died from his wounds Sunday morning in a hospital.

Ablimit's name identified him as a member of Xinjiang's native Muslim Turkic Uighur population, many of whom resent heavy-handed Chinese rule over the far northwestern region.

The account that circulated earlier this week said Ablimit was killed after running a red light in an apparent attempt to avoid paying a fine. Several hundred friends and relatives protested to demand an explanation from authorities, leading to further beatings and arrests, according to Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress based in Germany.

China restricts access to Xinjiang, making independent verification impossible.

Xinhua said a "rumormonger" who circulated the alternative version of the circumstances surrounding Ablimit's death had been detained and would be jailed for 15 days.

"Following the attack, rumormongers at home and abroad viciously distorted the facts, using the case to confuse the public," Xinhua quoted police as saying.

Xinjiang has seen growing violence over recent months, including in Aksu in the region's west where Uighurs largely remain the majority amid a sea of Chinese migrants.

Chinese authorities blame the unrest on separatists and foreign jihadi extremists and have responded by flooding the region with armed police and heavy restrictions on travel for Uighurs. Activists say police are increasingly shooting to kill even over minor incidents rather than trying to take suspects alive or accepting their surrender.

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