Uyghur Muslims in China (illustration)
Uyghur Muslims in China (illustration)Reuters

Xinjiang in western China, home to the Uyghur Muslim minority, has long been the site of clashes with the Chinese government, but a top local official on Friday claimed the Islamist extremism has been "weakened markedly."

The Turkish army announced last month that of the 913 Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists captured illegally crossing the border with Syria since January 2015, the vast majority have been Chinese Muslims.

Separatist Sunni Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China have conducted numerous attacks there as well, including with guns and explosives, but the region's Communist Party boss Zhang Chunxian said Friday that in 2015 the government has succeeded in "de-radicalization" efforts.

In a New Year's address published in the Xinjiang Daily and cited by Reuters, Zhang said, "the atmosphere for religious extremism has weakened markedly," without giving further details.

Xinjiang is a strategic region on the borders of central Asia, and is full of much-needed resources. Uyghurs and human rights groups have accused Chinese authorities of repressing the local Muslim population, and cracking down on their religious practices.

According to Zhang, the authorities have maintained "high pressure" on the separatists, with the official adding that "social management and stability maintenance abilities continued to improve, and society generally remained stable."

Providing illustration to the ongoing unrest in the region despite Zhang's claim of weakening radicalism, the government in November announced that 16 people were murdered in an attack at a coal mine the month before, with security forces responding by killing 28 allegedly involved terror suspects.