China executed two people Thursday for what a court described as an attempt to sabotage the Beijing Olympics with an attack in the far-west region of Xinjiang that killed 17 police, state media reported.
Abdurahman Azat, 34, and Kurbanjan Hemit, 29, were found guilty of a "terrorist attack on a frontier city's border police that left 17 dead." The attack came despite tightened security ahead of the Summer Games last August.
Before the attack, they wrote a letter saying they had to wage "holy war," and their mission was more important than their lives and mothers, Xinhua quoted a local Communist Party official as saying in August.
Almost half of Xinjiang's 20 million people are Uighur, a largely Muslim group with a culture and language close to other Turkic parts of central Asia. Many Uighurs resent controls imposed by Beijing and an inflow of Han Chinese migrants.
The attackers rammed a truck into dozens of police on a morning training run on Aug. 4 in the oasis city of Kashgar, following up their attack with explosives, a home-made gun and knives, state-run media reported at the time.
China had warned of unrest by groups seeking to exploit the world's attention on China in the run-up to the hugely successful Beijing Olympics, which in the end passed off without incident.
Execution ‘publicized’ at local stadium
The Kashgar court said the two men had "carried out the terrorist attack on Aug. 4 to sabotage the Beijing Olympic Games," Xinhua reported. Their execution was "publicized" at a meeting of some 4,000 officials and residents in a local stadium, it said.
Chinese officials have said Uighur militants seeking an independent "East Turkestan" are among the biggest threats to the country's stability, a key issue ahead of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic on Oct. 1.
The Xinjiang regional governor, Nuer Baikeli, told reporters in Beijing last month that violence in Afghanistan and recent militant attacks in India and Pakistan showed his region had reason to fear militants.
But human rights groups and Uighur independence activists say Beijing grossly exaggerates the threat to justify harsh controls.
On Wednesday, China announced that two people had been sentenced to death over riots in Tibet's regional capital Lhasa last year.
China's crackdown on the violence sparked protests which interrupted parts of the international leg of the Olympic torch relay.