Filed at 3:21 a.m. ET
BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese police in the far western region of Xinjiang have detained 15 people for stabbing attacks using syringes that have increased tension between ethnic groups in the region, media and visitors to the area said on Thursday.
State media did not say how many people had been stabbed. A doctor in the regional capital, Urumqi, said the number may be as high as 1,000, but he could not confirm that.
Nobody had been infected with anything or poisoned by the stabbings in Urumqi, the China Daily said on its website, citing the Xinhua news agency.
“According to eyewitness reports, on September 2 several hundred Urumqi citizens took to the streets to rebuke the despicable conduct of the violent perpetrators and call on the government to severely punish offenders,” the pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po said in a report.
In Xinjiang’s worst ethnic violence in decades, Uighurs, Turkic-speaking Muslim people native to the region, attacked majority Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5, after taking to the streets to protest against attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in south China in June in which two Uighurs were killed.
Han Chinese in Urumqi sought revenge two days later.
It is unclear if there is an ethnic dimension to the syringe attacks.
A visitor to Urumqi, contacted by Reuters, said the atmosphere was tense with many ethnic Han Chinese citizens blaming the stabbings on Uighurs.
Xinhua said victims came from nine ethnicities, including both Uighurs and Han Chinese.
The Hong Kong newspaper said 400 people had been injured by attackers who immediately fled. Most of the victims only realized they had been stabbed after the attacker had vanished.
Xinjiang government officials were not available for comment.
One foreign visitor to the city told Reuters by telephone there was no obvious sign of tension.
Four of the 15 detained people have been formally arrested.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)