URUMQI: Seven syringe needle attack groups have been captured as of Tuesday by the police force of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Some 75 suspected syringe needle attackers have been apprehended, and more than 36 related cases have been cracked, said Zhang Jun, deputy director of Urumqi public security bureau, at a press conference Tuesday.
The serial syringe attacks, which are still haunting Urumqi residents, especially Han dwellers in the city, had begun to spread from Urumqi to other regions in Xinjiang, Zhang said.
Among the 36 cracked cases, 16 were found in Urumqi, where 197 people were killed in riots on July 5. Another 13 cases were in Hotan prefecture, two in Turpan, two in Kashgar, and one each in Changji, Aksu, and Altay.
The local police force has been supported by crime scene experts from across the nation, sent by the Ministry of Public Security. Due to these coordinated efforts, attack crimes are decreasing both inside and outside Urumqi, Zhang said.
One of the busted groups included eight needle attack suspects led by Tursunjianj Turdi, Urumqi police announced Tuesday.
This group had organized several secret meetings since August plotting needle attacks aiming to stir up hatred between people from different ethic groups. They stabbed people with sewing needles, safety pins and toothpicks to spread fear among people.
Police arrested all eight suspects by Sept 7 and they are currently under investigation.
On Saturday, the first group of syringe attack suspects went on trial in Urumqi following a series of attacks on at least 500 people in the city since mid-August.
Two men and a woman were given sentences ranging from seven to 15 years in jail for syringe stabbings or robberies in which they threatened their victims with needles. Both trials took place in the Uygur language according to the defendants' wishes, with interpretation in Mandarin.
The court sentenced 19-year-old Yilipan Yilihamu to 15 years in prison for injecting a hypodermic needle into a woman's buttocks on Aug 28 at a roadside fruit stall.
The recent syringe attacks in Urumqi are being called "terror attacks" by regional officials.
"They aimed to disrupt the city's atmosphere," said Yan Yuxing, former president of Urumqi Municipal Intermediate People's Court.
The attacks, which targeted innocent people in Urumqi, were not practical jokes or simple crimes perpetrated by one individual but organized and planned stabbings that disturbed the social order and created an atmosphere of fear, said Du Xintao, an official with the regional Public Security Department.
Tests of victims' samples found no dangerous viruses or chemicals in the hypodermic syringe stabbings, a military medical expert said on Sunday.
By Sept. 4, local authorities had confirmed 531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings in Urumqi, 171 of whom showed obvious syringe marks. The majority of the victims were of the Han ethnic group.