Eighteen suspects who participated in last month's deadly terrorist attack that killed nearly 100 people in the restive Xinjiang province bordering Pakistan have surrendered to the police following a campaign asking the public to give tip-offs about those involved.
The suspects have surrendered under tense pressure from the public, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the regional government's publicity department as saying.
A total of 18 suspects of a fatal terror attack in Shache County have surrendered to police, the local government announced today.
However, Munich-based Uighur rights advocacy group rejected government claims about surrender under public pressure and said the 18 had surrendered fearing for their lives.
Amid a manhunt for the suspects, armed forces encircled a corn field where the 18 Uighur farmers, the youngest of whom was 15, had retreated and were shooting in the air, said Dilxat Raxit of the World Uyghur Congress.
Raxit further claimed that authorities took their family members to the field to persuade them to give up, "telling them the government can ensure their safety after they surrender."
Masked militants armed with knives attacked government offices on July 28 and killed 37 civilians and left 13 others injured. Police officers on the scene shot dead 59 terrorists and arrested 215 others.
In the incident, thirty one vehicles were vandalised, of which six were set on fire. Xinjiang, home to Uighur Muslims, is in turmoil over the increasing settlements of Han Chinese from other parts of the country.
Beijing accuses al-Qaeda backed East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which has bases in Pakistan's tribal areas, for the unrest in the region. The Shache attack was considered to be one of the largest in recent years as hundreds of separatists took part in it.
Few of the surrendered suspects were diehard terrorists, many of them were cheated or coerced into joining the terrorist attack, Abdulkeyum Abdukhadir, an official from the Shache public security bureau said.
If found guilty, the suspects who turned themselves in will get a lighter sentence, while those who are still on the run were warned to surrender as soon as possible, Abdulkeyum Abdukhadir said.
On August 1, the Shache County government made an announcement calling for public tip-offs about the suspects' whereabouts.