China shows unusual pictures of its fight against terror

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese state media on Saturday showed rare pictures of its armed forces on what it said was a mission to root out militants in the far western region of Xinjiang.

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.

A series of nine pictures showed armed police dressed all in black with helmets and balaclavas clambering over mountains, getting ready to storm what looked like a house in a rural region and a group posing for a picture with their faces blanked out.

“France’s Paris was hit by its worst terrorist attack in history, with hundreds dead and injured. On the other side of the world, police in China’s Xinjiang, after 56 days of pursuing and attacking, carried out a full attack on the terrorists and got great results,” reads the text accompanying the pictures.

Gunmen and bombers attacked restaurants, a concert hall and a sports stadium at locations across Paris on Friday, killing at least 120 people in a deadly rampage.

The post appeared to originate on an official microblog run by the Ministry of Public Security, but was then removed, though remained widely available on other state-run media microblogs.

A letter shown as part of the pictures says that after a 56-day battle, “it finally ended at 4:40pm today”.

Parts of the letter were pixelated out and warned that those who perpetrated violence will be severely dealt with.

It was not clear when the pictures were taken nor where exactly. China hardly ever shows pictures taken of its forces engaging in anti-terror operations.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the main Xinjiang exiled group the World Uyghur Congress, said in a statement, said China was using the shootings in Paris to whip up anti-Uighur feeling in China.

“Opening fire on and killing Uighurs who are resisting China’s systematically repressive policies and then calling them terrorists is a special political necessity for China,” he said.

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.

Rights groups and many foreign experts though doubt that there exists the cohesive militant Islamist group in Xinjiang that the government claims, and say the violence stems from popular anger at Chinese controls on religion and culture.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Shri Navaratnam