'We saw hell in heaven': Xinjiang attack survivors

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Two police cars came from the direction of the local police station at that time, but the rioters did not run away. More rioters rushed out, wielding long knives and wooden sticks. They surrounded the police officers and smashed up the police cars in the middle of the road, he said.

"Then I heard several gun shots, and two rioters were shot down. When I realized I should run away, I just did not have a chance and was beaten down to the ground by the rioters," he recalled.

"Honeydew melon and grapes harvested in our Lukqun township are famous nationwide, which has attracted people from across the country to visit my hometown. Why don't they (the rioters) cherish such a good life? Why do they still want to kill people? Execution by shooting is too good for them," the street cleaner said.

Kurban brimmed with indignation as he recalled the morning attack with a resonant voice. He sometimes hurt himself during the interview, as his emotional gesturing disturbed his injured leg.

Kurban said he will contribute more to the development of the township and make sure the township is clean after he recovers.

"Can it be an ethnic issue?"

At 5:53 a.m. on June 26, the special police squadron of Lukqun Township received an order from the command center, calling for them to quickly provide back up at the township's police station that was under attack.

Nine police officers, including Askar, rallied in less then two minutes after receiving the order and rushed downstairs.

At that moment, more than 10 rioters equipped with long knives and wooden sticks stormed into the building and began to smash our police vehicles and hack at police officers, he said.

Askar said he was the only one with a gun, which was loaded with 15 bullets. He added that the police officers had to use billy clubs to fight the rioters, who outnumbered them and forced them to retreat.

"We and the rioters were fighting together. I was the last one of all the police officers. On the stairs, I felt being heavily struck by a stick on my back. I heard them shouting slogans, and I saw a rioter lift the blade and slash it toward me," said Askar.

"I stopped the blade with my left arm and fell on the stairs. I pulled out the gun while I was rolling downstairs, shooting toward the rioters. At least two rioters on the stairs were shot."

Askar jumped up and checked his gun to find that only three bullets remained and his left arm had been lacerated. A fellow officer was behind Askar. Askar looked at his watch, it was 6:04 a.m.

It happened so suddenly and quickly, he said.

Askar hurried to report the situation to the command center and ask for reinforcements. At that moment, Askar heard gunshots ring out from the direction of the township government building.

"Only law enforcement staff have guns, so I knew reinforcements were coming! I felt excited!"

"I was bewildered that the rioters were Uygur people, and so are we. But they slashed us so crazily. Can it be an ethnic issue? They killed innocent people, don't they have parents or children?" he asked.

During the interview, the police officer that Askar protected cried and told Askar that the well-being of the people of Lukqun is improving every day. The government helped people build their houses and find markets for their fruits and vegetables. The government has also helped unemployed people attend training sessions in other places and then arranged jobs for them. And the elderly are assisted in obtaining public welfare jobs.

"Now people are living in paradise, but we saw hell in paradise!" Askar said.

Born and raised in a rural family in Turpan Prefecture, Askar is filled with affection for the people and the land. Deeply encouraged by the rapid development of Xinjiang in recent years, Askar said he hopes for a wonderful life in the future.

This makes Askar hate the rioters even more, because they undermined social stability and unity and killed innocent people.

Xinhua journalists saw that Askar's left arm had almost been cut off. Now his arm is recovering, and he has feeling and mobility in his fingers that are wrapped in thick gauze.

Askar told the journalists that he will continue to do police work as well as he can for the rest of his life.

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