New arrests in Xinjiang

After the clash in Xinjiang last Tuesday, police arrested eight suspects. State media has announced that 11 more suspects have been added to this number, raising the total to 19 people in custody. ABC reports:

A woman is escorted at a funeral ceremony for officials who died in last week's bloody clash between residents and officials in Kashgar, April 29, 2013. Credit: REUTERS/Stringer.

A statement posted on a website run by the Xinjiang regional government's propaganda office on Monday said the 19 suspects belonged to a terrorist group founded in September whose members regularly watched video clips advocating religious extremism and terrorism and attended illegal preaching ceremonies. Citing police, the statement said the group had planned to carry out a major attack in densely populated areas of Kashgar in the summer, and were seen making explosives on April 23 by local police and community workers, which led to the clash.

In addition, authorities allegedly found homemade explosives, weapons, and independence flags, which I assume are the blue East Turkestan flags. Reuters has more on the developments:

"Since early December 2012, they had always gathered ... to do physical training and to practice killing skills they had learned from the terrorist video clips," the English language [Xinhua] report said.
It said the unidentified group had tested explosives, made bombs and remote controllers and planned to "do something big" in densely populated areas of Kashgar in the coming months.
"The group members were spotted making explosives on April 23 by local police and community workers, which led to the deadly clash," the report said.

On Monday, April 29, a memorial service was held for the 15 policemen and community workers who perished in the violence. Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri was quoted as saying the clash was "not about ethnic or religious issues, but a terrorist act to split the motherland and undermine national unity."

This is a non sequitur since clearly an act of terror in Xinjiang is either the fruit of ethnic conflict or religious extremism. By saying the terrorist act is intended to divide the country, he begs the question of motive. But keep in mind the government's silence on the ethnicity of the assailants, although Governor Bekri has said that they did not "spare people of their own ethnic group" and we know that the government-side deaths include five Uighurs, three Han, and two Mongolians.

The Xinjiang government is trying to spin this in a specific direction by keeping ethnicity out of the picture. Think about it. Government-side deaths are revealed to be a multi-ethnic force working in unity to promote unity in the motherland, whereas the assailants  are charged with killing people from their own ethnicity, but we're not told which ethnicity this is. The lopsided nature of the story is propaganda at its best in the hope of shaping the narrative away from ethnicity and religion and grafting it onto a terrorism storyline. Unfortunately, terrorism is never naked, it has an end; and in this case, the veil is likely religion or ethnic-nationalism or both.