REUTERS - Fri Aug 1, 2014
The murder of a state-backed imam in China's Xinjiang region underscores an escalation in 18 months of violence and could be part of a bid by extremists to persuade moderate Muslim Uighurs to turn against Beijing's controlled current of Islam.
The targeting of Uighur officials or religious leaders has been an undercurrent of unrest for some 20 years in Xinjiang, where members of the Uighur minority are unhappy at official restrictions on their culture and religion.
Jume Tahir, the imam at China's largest mosque, Id Kah, in the Silk Road city of Kashgar, was killed on Wednesday by three suspected Islamist militants armed with knives. His predecessor narrowly survived a knife attack in the same spot in 1996.
But the attack contrasted with most recent violence aimed at the majority Han ethnic group and may be calculated to persuade Uighurs to fall in behind what China says are separatists seeking an independent state called East Turkestan.