China has said that militants from outside the country took part in last week's mass attack in the restive Muslim-majority Xinjiang province that left 37 civilians and 59 "terrorists" dead.
A total of 37 civilians were killed and another 13 injured in July 27 terrorist attack at Shache County, Kashgar Prefecture in Xinjiang, state-run Xinhua news agency reported providing details for the first time.
"Police gunned down 59 terrorists and arrested 215 others," the regional government said after a meeting presided by Zhang Chunxian, secretary of the regional committee of the Communist Party of China yesterday.
Zhang said the terrorists will be punished in accordance with law. The case was first reported on Tuesday, but no figures were given except that dozens of people died. Among the dead were 35 Hans and two Uygurs, the government said.
Investigations showed that it was an attack jointly "organised and premeditated" by terrorists both in and outside China, the government said.
This is the first time that China said terrorists from outside took part in the attack. Police confiscated long knives, axes as well as the terrorists' banners that hailed "holy war."
In the attack, regarded as one of the worst in recent times, a gang armed with knives and axes attacked a police station and government offices in Elixku Township early Monday morning. Some moved on to the nearby Huangdi Township, attacking civilians and smashing vehicles as they passed.
The gangsters also set roadblocks on the Bachu-Shache Road and stopped vehicles passing by, before slashing passengers indiscriminately and forcing civilians to join them in the terror attack, according to police.
The mastermind behind the attack was identified as Nuramat Sawut from Elixku Township, who had close connections with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) - the al-Qaeda backed terror outfit which has become very active in Xinjiang in recent years.
Sawut had been spreading separatism and religious extremism with audio and video materials since 2013, the statement said. Through this process he developed a terrorist group and became its leader.
This is also the first time China provided details about the leadership of ETIM, which remained a secretive outfit. Since the beginning of Ramadan, the group had had multiple gatherings in remote places, during which they made attack plans and prepared tools for their acts, it said.
Xinjiang, the home of native Muslim Uygurs was in turmoil for a years over Uygur resentment about the increasing settlements of Hans, from other parts of China.
China alleges that the ETIM, which reportedly has bases in Pakistan's tribal areas and Afghanistan, is taking advantage of the underlying social tensions and carrying out violent attacks in Xinjiang and the rest of the country.
Kashgar, bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Afghanistan faced the brunt of the violence for the past few days.