Seven people allegedly involved in plotting terrorist activities have been sentenced to death for robbery and murder in China's far western region of Xinjiang, a state-run news website said Wednesday.
China's Supreme People's Court recently approved the death penalty meted out to seven people by a court in the Silk Road city of Kashgar in Xinjiang's west, the Tianshan website said.
Calls to the People's Intermediate Court in Kashgar rang unanswered. The Supreme People's Court did not immediately respond to a faxed list of questions about the cases.
It was unclear whether the seven are Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs), historically Xinjiang's majority ethnic group, many of whom resent heavy-handed Chinese rule. Unrest in Xinjiang has been simmering for years, with ethnic Uighurs saying they have been marginalized as more and more majority Han Chinese move into the area.
In July 2009, rioting between Uighurs and Han Chinese killed nearly 200 people in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi. Uighur activists say the Urumqi riots, which were followed by retaliatory attacks by members of China's majority Han ethnic group, were the result of decades of pent-up frustration with Chinese rule.
Some Uighurs opposed to Chinese rule have waged a low-intensity campaign of bombings and assassinations against Chinese officials.
Wednesday's report says the seven sentenced to death are among a dozen people who met and raised funds between June 2008 and October 2010 to carry out "violent, terrorist" activities. It did not elaborate.
The robberies and murders were committed on three occasions last year, the report said. On Aug. 7, Aimaiti Tuheti and Yiming Dawuti and others killed a security guard at a pedestrian mall while trying to steal, it said. On Oct. 12, Nuermaimaiti Aobulikasimu and 11 others broke into a house, bound and killed the couple living in it and seized their belongings.
Finally, on Nov. 11, Aobulikasimu and others charged into the homes of two brothers, robbed them and killed six people, the report said. It did not explain who the victims were or why they were targeted.
The report did not say when the executions would be carried out.
Three others were sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, the report said. Such sentences are usually commuted to life imprisonment.