Chinese police in the northeastern city of Shenyang shot dead three knife-wielding Uighur militants screaming for Islamic holy war and wounded another on Monday as they tried to resist arrest, the government and state media said.
China’s government has repeatedly blamed attacks in the far western region of Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur people, and other parts of the country on Islamist militants.
“When police pursued the terrorist suspects, four terrorists armed with knives resisted arrest. Police fired shots only after the terrorists ignored warnings,” the Shenyang public security bureau said on its official microblog late on Monday.
The state-run Beijing News, citing the Liaoning provincial government, said the militants, from Xinjiang, were killed on Monday afternoon after police tried to enter a rented house during a raid.
“When they police tried to enter to investigate, four terrorists wearing headgear, holding knives and crying out ‘jihad’ hacked at the police,” the Beijing News said.
Three “accompanying children” were apprehended as well as a woman from Hotan in southern Xinjiang, it said.
The government statement was later removed from its microblog without explanation.
The Shenyang police said no civilians were killed or wounded in the incident but gave no further details.
Hundreds have died in violence in Xinjiang. The government blames the unrest on Islamist militants and separatists who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan for Uighurs, who speak a Turkic language.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Uighurs have left China in recent years, illegally crossing the Chinese border into Southeast Asian countries and then on to Turkey.
Rights groups say they are mostly fleeing the violence in Xinjiang and Chinese controls on their religion and culture. The government says they are seeking to go to Iraq and Syria to fight with extremist groups like Islamic State.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for exile group the World Uyghur Congress, said about a dozen Uighurs were trying to flee China when they were caught by police in Shenyang.
“The accusation they are suspected terrorists exposes China’s hostile and discriminatory attitude,” he said in an emailed statement.
Tong Bishan, who is helping lead China’s attempts to have the Uighurs who have fled abroad returned, told a small group of foreign reporters at the weekend that they were starting to discover groups trying to leave via northeastern China because of increased security along the borders with Laos and Vietnam.
Shenyang is about 4,000 km (2,485 miles) east of Xinjiang.
Thailand deported 109 Uighurs to China last week, some of whom Chinese state media said were planning to go to Syria and Iraq to join Islamist militants fighting there.