China Police Kill 5 Uighurs On 'Holy War'

Chinese police have shot and killed five people who were seeking "holy war" in the restive far western region of Xinjiang, state media said on Wednesday, less than one month before the Beijing Olympics open.

Police in regional capital Urumqi on Tuesday raided an apartment where 15 ethnic Uighurs were hiding, who rushed out wielding knives and shouting "sacrifice for Allah", Xinhua news agency cited an unidentified police officer as saying.

"The policemen were then forced to open fire, killing five on the spot and injuring two. The injured were sent to hospital and the other nine people were captured," he was quoted as saying.

"The suspects confessed they had all received training on the launching of a 'holy war.' Their aim was to kill Han people, the most populous ethnic group in China whom they took as heretics, and found their own state," the report added. The police had been on the trail of three men in the group who they suspected of stabbing a Han Chinese woman at an Urumqi beauty salon, Xinhua said.

"After police used tear gas on the premise, a roomful of people tried to break out, waving knives and injuring one policeman," it added.

Police found 30 knives in the apartment, "the biggest of which was 50 cm (20 inches)", the report said. Beijing accuses militant Uighurs of working with al Qaeda to use violence to bring about an independent state called East Turkestan. It says it foiled at least two Xinjiang-based plots this year to launch attacks during the Beijing Games.

Many Muslim Uighurs resent the migration of Han Chinese to the region and government controls on their religion and culture.

Last week a senior Chinese security official warned that the Olympics, which open on Aug. 8, were threatened by sabotage and unrest.

In the latest sign of how determined China is to ensure a smooth Olympics, Beijing will from next week place hundreds of security staff at checkpoints on roads into the city with sniffer dogs and metal detectors, Xinhua said in a separate report.

"All vehicles with licences registered outside Beijing are subject to security checks at the checkpoints. They can only enter the city with road-entry certificates and valid documents," it said.

But a riot last month in southwestern Guizhou province on allegations of a cover-up over a girl's death happened despite China's determination to quell any signs of trouble ahead of August.

The government has taken sweeping steps to prevent any protests or violence during the Games from tarnishing the country's international image. The restive regions of Xinjiang and Tibet have been particular targets.

Campaign groups say there has been a notable rise in human rights abuses and limits on freedom of expression on the back of the Olympic security crackdown. China has rejected all such criticism as unfair or unfounded.

(Editing by Alex Richardson)