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Published: Wednesday May 14, 2014 MYT 1:55:02 PM
Updated: Wednesday May 14, 2014 MYT 1:55:53 PM

China trains Xinjiang police to use guns against attacks

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has sent weapons specialists to Xinjiang to train police as part of its crackdown on violent attacks, blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants and separatists, in the troubled far western region, state media reported on Wednesday.

Xinjiang, resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of central Asia, is home to the Muslim Uighur people. It has been beset by violence for years and a recent series of attacks, some of which Beijing has called "terrorism", have unnerved the country.

A group of training officers were sent to Xinjiang to "improve the anti-terrorism and emergency management ability of front-line police officers, and resolutely strike against violent terrorists who are swollen with arrogance," the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece, the People's Daily, said.

The training includes instructions on the use of firearms and combat tactics, a statement carried on the website of the Ministry of Public Security said.

More than 100 people have been killed in unrest in Xinjiang in the past year, prompting a crackdown by Chinese authorities.

Beijing says it faces a real threat from militant Islamists in Xinjiang who want an independent state called East Turkestan. Authorities say many have links with foreign groups, although rights groups and some foreign experts say there is little evidence to support this.

Many Uighurs say they are unhappy at Chinese restrictions on their culture and religion, although the government says they are given widespread freedoms.

A number of Chinese cities have tightened security measures after several recent deadly attacks in different parts of the country.

In March, 29 people were killed in an attack blamed on what Beijing described as knife-wielding "terrorists" from Xinjiang at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming.

Last week, the government strengthened police patrols and restricted bulk purchases of gasoline in Beijing, where a car burst into flames on the edge of the Tiananmen Square in October.

Police in the southwestern city of Guiyang have also recently been equipped with guns and ordered to patrol the city 24 hours a day, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

(Reporting by Li Hui and Michael Martina; Editing by Paul Tait)

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