Anti-terrorism forces stand watch in this file image taken in northwest China's Xinjiang region.
STR/AFP/Getty
Anti-terrorism forces stand watch in this file image taken in northwest China's Xinjiang region.

Story highlights

State news: Assailants throw explosives, attack with knives on a street in Xinjiang

Police kill 11 of the attackers, four other civilians killed and 14 injured

Attack came as Xinjiang People's Congress passed new law on religious extremism

Xinjiang has been site of ethnic strife involving Han Chinese and the indigenous Uyghurs

CNN —  

Chinese police killed 11 assailants who launched what state media described as a terrorist attack on Friday afternoon at a food market in Xinjiang, in the country’s northwest.

It came as the region’s People’s Congress passed a new law to clamp down on religious extremism, including banning people from practicing religion in government offices, public schools, business or institutions, China Daily reported.

The law gives local authorities the right to ban people from wearing clothes or logos associated with religious extremism, although the types of clothing and symbols weren’t specified. The regulation also prohibits people from viewing videos about jihad and religious extremism.

READ: Q&A: Xinjiang and tensions in China’s restive far west

In Friday’s attack, assailants threw explosives and attacked people with knives at a crowded food market in Shache County, killing four civilians. Fourteen others taken to hospital with injuries, state news agency Xinhua reported.

It’s one of a number of attacks in the region, the scene of ethnic tension between the indigenous Uyghurs, a mainly Turkic-speaking Muslim population, and Han Chinese.

The new law on religious extremism – the first in the country – will come into force in January.

The law defines religious extremism as “activities or comments that twist the doctrines of a religion and promote thoughts of extremism, violence and hatred,” China Daily reported.

The article quoted Ma Mingcheng, deputy director of the Xinjiang People’s Congress and director of its legislative affairs committee, as saying that “an increasing number of problems involving religious affairs have emerged in Xinjiang.”

“The old regulation, which was passed 20 years ago, just cannot handle new situations, such as the spreading of terrorist or extreme religious materials via the Internet or social media, and using religion to interfere in people’s lives,” Ma said.

State media has reported a number of violent attacks in Xinjiang, including the deaths of 37 civilians in a knife and ax attack in Shache in July. A local court sentenced 12 terrorists to death in October. Fifteen others were sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.