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Two years ago, the Xinjiang region was the site of a major Chinese police and military crackdown on ethnic protests. It has been under virtual marshal law ever since.

Former State Department intelligence analyst John Tkacik said: “The Chinese are distorting this event to legitimize their claims that the Uighurs are ‘terrorists’ — and I don’t believe it.

“We have never seen an organized terrorist attack in China or Xinjiang, but rather sporadic outbursts that appear to be ad hoc,” he said. “This incident seems no less ad hoc and it will probably turn out that the [World Uighur Congress] report is closer to the truth.”