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Alwaght-Police in northeastern China say that they shot dead three minority Muslim Uighurs in a clash with suspects they claimed were using knives to resist arrest.
A fourth suspect, a 28-year-old woman, also sustained injuries during the Monday incident in the city of Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province, local police said in a statement.
The Uighurs “resisted arrest by wielding knives, so to prevent any harm to society, police quickly decided to shoot them,” the statement said.
Dilxat Raxit, the spokesman for the Munich-based World Uighur Congress, which advocates Uighur rights, said the victims were among a group of people who were trying to flee China through its northern border.
In mid-June China banned civil servants, students and teachers in it’s mainly Muslim Xinjiang region from fasting during Ramadan and ordered restaurants to stay open.
Most Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk during the holy month, which began on Thursday 18 June, but China's ruling Communist party is officially atheist and for years has restricted the practice in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority.
"China's goal in prohibiting fasting is to forcibly move Uighurs away from their Muslim culture during Ramadan," said Dilxat Rexit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress.
Shenyang is almost 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) away from Urumqi, the capital of the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, which has witnessed sporadic violence in recent years, blamed by authorities on 'Uighur militants.' Uighurs have denied the accusation against them.
Uighur rights groups say China's restrictions on Islam in Xinjiang have added to ethnic tensions in the region, where clashes have killed hundreds in recent years.