China 'used flamethrowers' on terror suspects blamed for coal mine attack

Chinese paramilitaries used flamethrowers to smoke terror suspects out of a cave, according to a detailed account of the manhunt that China said resulted in the deaths of 28 "terrorists."

According to reports by Reuters and the South China Morning Post, the Chinese army's media outlet wrote that armed police had tracked the suspects into the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang "like eagles discovering their prey."

Police used flash grenades and tear gas to try to force the suspects out of a cliff-side cave and, when this failed, used flamethrowers. More than 10 knife-wielding terrorists then rushed from the cave at police, who shot them dead, The People's Liberation Army Daily wrote, according to the reports.

On Friday, China's state media outlet Xinhua reported that police had killed 28 "terrorists" in total after a near two-month manhunt. The 28 were responsible for a September attack on a coal mine that killed at least 16 people, Xinhua reported. It was the first time an official outlet had confirmed the colliery attack.

Official reports have referred to the suspects as being part of a "foreign-led" extremist group.

A July 2014 photograph of Chinese soldiers outside the Id Kah Mosque, China's largest mosque. China had increased security in Xinjiang following an unusually violent few months in the Uighur-dominated area.
Getty Images
A July 2014 photograph of Chinese soldiers outside the Id Kah Mosque, China's largest mosque. China had increased security in Xinjiang following an unusually violent few months in the Uighur-dominated area.

Xinjiang is home to China's Uighur Muslim population.

Chinese authorities say that Uighur separatists have killed hundreds of people in terror attacks over the past few years, while human rights groups have argued that China oppresses the Uighurs.

Reuters notes that it is difficult to independently verify the situation in Xinjiang, because there are tight government controls on foreign reporters visiting the resource-rich region.

Dilxat Raxi, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, told Reuters that the terror attacks in Paris as 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."