BEIJING, May 16 (Reuters) - Three Chinese government officials were knifed to death and their bodies dumped in a lake, in the latest incident of violence in the restive far western region of Xinjiang, Radio Free Asia reported.
The report said the officials were killed during a visit to Xinjiang last month by President Xi Jinping, in an incident that also featured in the state-backed Global Times newspaper on Friday. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
The Chinese government has blamed several violent incidents in Xinjiang on Islamist militants and separatists seeking to form an independent state called East Turkestan.
But exile groups and rights activists say China’s own heavy-handed policies in the resource-rich region have sowed the seeds of unrest.
The officials were county-level representatives, Radio Free Asia said in its report on Thursday, but did not name them.
Officials contacted by Reuters at the town public security department and the external affairs office of the Xinjiang government said they could not comment on the case, but gave no reason why.
Radio Free Asia quoted an official at a police station near the murder site as saying the attackers slit the throats of two victims and stabbed the third 31 times, before pushing the trio into the lake.
The officials were on a fishing trip to the lake at the time of the killing, it added, citing police.
Reuters’ telephone calls to the police station went unanswered.
The incident was “a tragic murder of three cadres by terrorists,” according to an expert quoted by the Global Times. Police have pinpointed up to five suspects, who come from a nearby town, the tabloid said.
Three people were killed and 79 wounded in a bomb and knife attack at a train station in the Xinjiang city of Urumqi, as President Xi was wrapping up his trip to the region last month.
Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez