KASHGAR, China — Authorities said they were treating a brazen attack that left 16 police officers dead and 16 others injured Monday as a terrorist strike, China's state-run media reported. The two men arrested after the attack were members of the ethnic Uighur minority, which has long chafed under Beijing's control of northwestern China.
The incident followed the release of a video last month in which a group calling itself the Turkestan Islamic Party threatened attacks during the Olympic Games, which open in Beijing on Friday. Although experts believed the group's claims were inflated, it has asserted responsibility for recent bombings around China.
The group has said it wants to draw attention to its demands to establish an independent state and end Chinese repression of Uighurs, Muslims who speak a Turkic language and have made this area 2,000 miles west of Beijing their home for centuries.
In Beijing, an Olympic spokesman said Monday that the Chinese government has taken every precaution to try to prevent an attack at the Games. "We have strengthened security in all Olympic venues and in the Olympic village. We are well-prepared to deal with any kind of threat," said Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Olympics organizing committee.
Details of the attack remained unclear. Local police declined to comment and official reports differed throughout the day.
According to the New China News Service, an assailant rammed a dump truck into 70 border police officers about 8 a.m. as they were jogging near their barracks in a regular exercise. After the truck slammed into a pole, the agency said, the assailant leapt out and tried to throw a homemade explosive at wounded police. The device detonated early, the agency said, blowing off one of the assailant's arms.
A second assailant threw an explosive device near the gate of the police station, a few hundred yards down the street. Both men, ages 28 and 33, were arrested at the scene, police said. Their names were not released.
Police said they found 10 homemade explosives, a homemade handgun and four knives in the vehicle, the news agency reported. Some reports said at least one of the men tried to slash the officers with knives.
The government has said a violent Uighur separatist group that calls itself the East Turkestan Islamic Movement is the greatest threat to Olympics security.
Some terrorism specialists suggest that although China routinely blames the group and uses it to carry out oppressive policies against all Uighurs, the separatist movement is divided into a number of groups with similar goals.