Imam of China’s biggest mosque killed in Xinjiang

BEIJING (TIP): The head of a China’s largest mosque was murdered after conducting morning prayers, the local government in the far western region of Xinjiang said Thursday, amid intensifying violence in the turbulent region. Jume Tahir, the governmentappointed imam of the 600-year-old Id Kah mosque in the city of Kashgar, was killed on Wednesday by “three thugs influenced by religious extremist ideology”, the Xinjiang government web portal Tianshan said.

Police launched an all-out investigation and shot dead two of the alleged assailants while capturing the other at about noon on Wednesday as they violently resisted with “knives and hatchets,” Tianshan said. Tianshan said Tahir’s killing was “premeditated” and that the suspects intended to commit a “ruthless murder”. It also said they wanted to “increase their influence through ‘doing something big'”. Tianshan identified the suspects by their names in phonetic Chinese. The official Xinhua news agency in an English-language report gave their names as Turghun Tursun, Memetjan Remutillan and Nurmemet Abidilimit. Neither Tianshan nor Xinhua initially identified who among them was shot dead and who was apprehended.

Tahir was found dead in a pool of blood outside the mosque’s prayer house, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported earlier on its website. Xinjiang, home to China’s mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, has seen escalating violence which in the past year has spilled over into other parts of China. RFA cited what it described as “witnesses and other officials”, including the director of a neighbourhood stability committee in Kashgar, who described the killing as an assassination. Imams and other religious leaders in China are appointed by the government and subject to strict control on the content of their preaching.

US-based RFA said that Tahir had been critical of violence carried out by Uighurs, and China’s official Xinhua news agency in early July quoted him as condemning terrorist violence carried out in the name of ethnicity and religion. Tahir, 74, “enjoyed a high reputation among Muslims nationwide”, Xinhua said in its dispatch on July 31.

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