What happened in Xinjiang?
On 29 December, Xinhua reported that seven “terrorists” were shot by police in Western Xinjiang after “kidnapping” two herders. Edward Wong put together all that is known in his piece for the New York Times on 1 January 2012 (I only found it now):
In the new report, Radio Free Asia said on Friday that four of the people detained after the confrontation in a mountainous area of Xinjiang were children, ages 7 to 17, and that they had been part of a group trying to flee the country to escape repression.
A report on Thursday by Xinhua, the state news agency, said that police officers had engaged in a shootout with 15 terrorist suspects who had abducted two people, and that seven of the suspects and one police officer had been killed. Xinhua did not specify the ethnicity of the gunmen.
An article on Friday in The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, said that a group of kidnappers had been trying to cross into Central Asia to undergo “jihadist training” and had abducted two herdsmen to force them to guide the group in Pishan County. Four of the 15 people were detained, and four others were injured, the article said.
The report by Radio Free Asia, which is financed by the United States government and has a Uighur-language service, said the group was trying to leave the country so that it could freely practice Islam, the religion of most Uighurs. The Chinese Communist Party carefully controls expressions of Islam and other religions throughout China. The report made no reference to a kidnapping and said the group had been stopped by the police on the way to the border.
More open questions than anything else.