China's state media says unidentified assailants raided a border patrol station Monday in the Far West, where separatists are demanding an independent state. The news comes as China justifies heavy security at the Beijing Olympics by claiming it faces a terrorist threat from Islamist separatists.
According to the report from Xinhua news agency, the attackers used a dump truck to ram their way into a paramilitary police border patrol station near Kashgar. Kashgar is an oasis town on the old Silk Road. It's in Xinjiang province, which borders central Asia. Xinhua said the attackers lobbed two hand grenades that killed 16 paramilitary policemen and injured 16 others.
The report called the assailants "rioters," but it didn't identify them. It said two of the assailants were arrested.
China's military is deploying some 34,000 troops to Beijing and other Olympic host cities to prevent this sort of attack. In charge of the troops is Senior Col. Tian Yixiang, who briefed reporters Friday.
"I believe that during the Olympic Games time, terrorist organizations both in and outside China will attempt to sabotage and interfere with the proceeding of the games. As far as the Beijing Olympic Games is concerned, the biggest terrorist threat comes from the East Turkestan terrorist organization," he said.
The U.S. has listed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement as a terrorist group, but Western governments are concerned that Beijing is using the terrorist threat to suppress discontent among Muslim minorities in China's border region.