via SCMP: Chinese paramilitary special forces used flamethrowers to smoke terror suspects out of their hiding place in a cliffside cave during a recent counterterrorism operation in the far western Xinjiang region, the military’s official newspaper said on Monday.
The troops had been hunting “dozens of terrorists who had fled to the Tianshan Mountains after brutally killing civilians over a month ago,” the report said, without specifying where and when the operation took place.
The report came on the back of a recent confirmation by Xinjiang official news outlet Ts.cn that 16 people, including three police officers, were killed after a group of suspected terrorists attacked a coal mine in the border prefecture of Aksu in mid-September.
The confirmation of the Aksu coal mine attack came shortly after terror attacks rocked the heart of Paris on November 13.
Radio Free Asia, which first reported the coal mine attack, said more than 50 people were killed and another 50 injured. It was directed by an overseas extremist group, according to Ts.cn.
One suspect surrendered while the remaining 28 were killed during the manhunt.
On Monday, the military newspaper revealed that the terror suspects had robbed police of their firearms during the Aksu attack and had gone into hiding in a cave by a cliff in the Tianshan Mountains.
The troops tracked down the suspects after a 10-hour search of five mountains, the report said.
Armed police threw waves of tear gas and stun grenades into the cave but failed to draw the suspects out. As evening approached, an officer ordered the use of flamethrowers – a weapon that sprays out burning fuel.
The flamethrowers proved effective, as more than 10 knife-wielding terror suspects emerged from the cave, rushing towards the troops. They were shot dead at the scene, the report said. Helicopters as well as counterterrorism armoured vehicles were dispatched to assist in the operation, according to the website.
Over the weekend, Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun urged all government officials to impose counterterrorism measures ordered by the central government in light of the “complex and serious” terror threats both at home and abroad. He did not specify the orders.
On Saturday, Guo told an official meeting that other than the public security sectors, other government departments were also obliged to take part in the fight against terrorism. Counterterrorism efforts should be included in the government’s work plans, he said.
Xinjiang, home to the millions of the China’s Muslim Uygur minority, has seen hundreds killed in violence across the region over the past few years.
Beijing has blamed the violence on separatists and extremists, but exiled Uygur groups and human rights activists say repressive religious policies and economic marginalisation of the ethnic minority – including controls on Islam and the Uygur culture – provoked the unrest. Beijing denies the claim.
Authorities have in recent days have made public details of security forces’ missions in the restive region.
On Sunday, a Xinhua report detailed how officers geared up for anti-terror missions, remaining undeterred even in the face of danger.