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BEIJING -- Two men rammed a dump truck into a group of jogging policemen and then tossed explosives into their barracks Monday, killing 16 officers in a restive Chinese province bordering Central Asia, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
The attack in Xinjiang province came just four days before the start of the Beijing Olympics -- an event that has put security forces nationwide on alert and that at least one militant Muslim group has vowed to disrupt. Xinhua, citing local police, called it a "suspected terrorist attack."
Meanwhile, about 20 people angry about being evicted from their homes in central Beijing demonstrated Monday not far from Tiananmen Square, saying the Olympics should not curb their legal rights.
The attackers in Xinjiang struck at 8 a.m., plowing into the policemen performing their morning exercises outside a hotel next to their paramilitary border patrol post in Kashgar, Xinhua said.
After the truck hit an electrical pole, the pair jumped out, threw homemade explosives at the barracks and "also hacked the policemen with knives," the report said.
Fourteen died on the spot and two others en route to a hospital, while at least 16 others were wounded, Xinhua said.
Police arrested the two attackers, one of whom had a leg injury, the report said.
The attack was one of the deadliest and most brazen in recent years in Xinjiang province, where local Muslims have waged a sporadically violent rebellion against Chinese rule.
Local government officials declined comment Monday. An officer in the district police department said an investigation had been launched.
The exact location of the attack in Kashgar could not immediately be determined. Kashgar, or Kashi in Chinese, is the name of an oasis town that was once a stop on the Silk Road caravan routes and lies about 80 miles from the border with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Chinese security forces have been on edge for months, citing a number of foiled plots by Muslim separatists and a series of bombings around China in the run-up to the Olympics, which open Friday. Last week, a senior military commander said radical Muslims who are fighting for what they call an independent East Turkistan in Xinjiang posed the single greatest threat to the games.
Xinhua said that Xinjiang's police department earlier received intelligence reports about possible terrorist attacks in the week leading up to the Olympics by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. The movement is the name of a group that China and the U.S. say is a terrorist organization, but Chinese authorities often use the label for a broad number of violent separatist groups.
In Xinjiang, a local Turkic Muslim people, the Uighurs, have chafed under Chinese rule, fully imposed after the communists took power nearly 60 years ago. Occasionally violent attacks in the 1990s brought an intense response from Beijing, which has stationed crack paramilitary units in the area and clamped down on unregistered mosques and religious schools that officials said were inciting militant action.
Uighurs have complained that the suppression has aggravated tensions in Xinjiang, making Uighurs feel even more threatened by an influx of Chinese and driving some to flee to Pakistan and other areas where they then have readier access to extremist ideologies.
One militant group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, pledged in a video that surfaced on the Internet last month to "target the most critical points related to the Olympics." The group is believed to be based across the border in Pakistan, with some of its core members having received training from al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban, according to terrorism experts.
Terrorism analysts and Chinese authorities, however, have said that with more than 100,000 soldiers and police guarding Beijing and other Olympic co-host cities, terrorists were more likely to attack less-protected areas.
In Beijing, uniformed police quickly surrounded the residential street where AP Television News video showed the group of protesters shouting about being kicked out of their homes and not getting proper compensation. The protesters had been evicted as early as 2003.
The police officers did not interfere, but women who said they were members of a neighborhood committee pushed and led the protesters away from the area. Neighborhood committees are not officially part of the government but work closely with police and other departments.
China has stationed security agents throughout the city to watch for signs of unrest. Demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square are rare and generally stopped quickly by police.
It was not clear where the protesters were taken, and whether they were detained. A duty officer in the Beijing police news office said he did not know what happened to them.
A large crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the protest in the historic Qianmen district just south of Tiananmen Square, one of Beijing's most famous landmarks where large pro-democracy protests were held in 1989. Authorities cracked down hard on those protesters.
The demonstrators were unhappy about being evicted from their former homes in the area to make way for redevelopment. The area is being rebuilt into a commercial strip with businesses such as Nike, Starbucks and Rolex, and it is scheduled to open on Thursday.
Beijing carried out a $40 billion makeover in preparation for the Olympics, and many older homes were razed as part of the modernization campaign.