State-appointed imam in China's Uighur region killed after prayers

(Photo: REUTERS)Juma Tayir speaks during an interview at Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in this still image taken from video dated August 3, 2011. Three suspected Islamist militants armed with knives and axes killed Tayir, the imam of China's biggest mosque in the western region of Xinjiang, on July 31, 2014, the authorities said, days after a knife-wielding gang attacked state buildings in the same region. All three attackers, who were named by the government, had ethnic Uighur names and the imam, Tayir, was a well-known pro-government Uighur who led prayers at the Id Kah Mosque in the old Silk Road city of Kashgar.

Assailants have killed a State-appointed imam well-known among Muslims in China after saying morning prayers at the country's largest mosque in the autonomous northwest region of Xinjiang, police said.

Jume Tahir, the imam of Id Kah mosque in Kashgar City, was attacked and killed early July 30 while finishing his morning ritual, in an area of China in which Muslims are the majority.

Authorities said they killed two suspects and arrested another in connection with the killing.

Police told the State-run Xinhua news agency that they were able to corner the suspects, who were identified as Turghun Tursun, Memetjan Remutillan and Nurmemet Abidilimit.

The suspects were tracked down around noon Wednesday noon, and they were said to have resisted arrest as the police were closing in.

They said the suspects fought off police officers with knives and axes.

During the arrest process police killed two of the suspects.

Police said initial investigation showed the suspects were influenced by religious extremism in carrying out the murder.

They hoped that by killing the imam, they would be able to increase their influence in the community.

The community in Xinjiang mourned the loss of Tahir, said to be a widely-respected imam.

Tahir was considered a "religious patriot" by Sang Yun, president of the Xinjiang Lawyers Association. He told the Xinhau that lawyers in the region "felt extremely angry and sad" over the loss of the imam.

"The terrorists killed a respected elder, it's against humanity and I am extremely grieved," said Arken Niyaz, an official of Kashgar Food and Drug Administration.

Tahir had been an imam leading prayers at the Id Kah Mosque from 2003.

He also served as a deputy to the National People's Congress and vice president of the China Islamic Association.

The group called for peace and stood against violence and terrorism following the recent terror attacks in Xinjiang.

The Id Kah Mosque has a rich history of more than 600 years, accommodating an average of over 2,000 Muslims each day for services. On religious occasions, it can hold up to 20,000 worshipers.

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